For most of the past 16 months, Pakistan has been on the defensive, unable to live down the fact that terrrorists and their handlers used its soil to carry out the November 26 terror strike on Mumbai, but there is a view in certain informed quarters that this defensiveness must not be seen as a change of heart, but as a change of tactics.
In January 2009, India's anger against Pakistan was palpable, just months after 26/11, and the West led by a newly installed US President Barack Obama, wanted to be seen as putting the required pressure on Pakistan to bring to book the perpetrators of that horrific tragedy.
Washington began shaping its Af-Pak policy, and this required Islamabad to lie low. Academia, intelligentsia, the bureaucracy and former armed forces officers unanimously vouched for a six-month "cooling off" period in which, the focus was for working on as many "common issues" as possible with New Delhi. Simultaneously, President Obama's policy for Afghanistan has been given time to evolve. Pakistan has used this interim period to "claw its way back and reconfirm its status as the United States' 'indispensable ally.'
US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal's review of the surge states that Pakistan's attitude to the US campaign on terror can be affected by its tensions with India. A report says that in one sense Pakistan has used its "indispensability" card successfully, and that is that it has convinced Washington that New Delhi needs to be excluded from all deliberations deciding the fate of Afghanistan in exchange for finding and facilitating an honourable exit from the ongoing war on terror along its borders with Afghanistan.
Afghanistan-related talks in Istanbul and London in January this year did not see India participating, and Islamabad sees this absence as a strategic regional victory of sorts.
At the recent NATO summit in Brussels, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Pervez Kayani, briefed participants in a way that has added greater self-confidence to his country. Rabble rousing on Kashmir by elements like former Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lieutenant General (retired) Hamid Gul and Hizb-ul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin is also more visible now than any time before in the last year and a half.
Extensions have reportedly been given to both Army chief General Kayani and current Inter-Servicies Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha. Pakistan's decision to lie low and then cajole and work its way back into favour with the US is reflected from Islamabad's point of view in the fact that India has repeatedly called on it to come forward for talks, despite 26/11.