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America wary of intervening in Pak

world Updated: Jan 13, 2012 01:35 IST
Yashwant Raj

The US resumed drone strike in Pakistan killing four terrorists on Tuesday, after a pause of two months, as the two countries recalibrated relations in wake of growing distrust.

But it will be a long time before the US begins to comment on the current developments in Pakistan as the country's powerful military waterboards a weak civilian government.

Or even try to play the role it did facilitating the return of exiled leaders Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated shortly after, and Nawaz Sharif, who is still biding his time.

Memogate, the alleged civilian coup against the Pakistani military, brought the US a new challenge: how to defend the civilian government without antagonising the military. It decided to publicly say nothing.

Take this official response to a question at the Pentagon briefing of Wednesday. "(Pentagon press secretary) Mr. (George) Little: First, on Pakistan, I wouldn't comment on what's happening inside ...the Pakistani political system with respect to jobs that are being left or taken." Unmistakably, there is an trepidation in US reactions.

"The US doesn't have as much leverage in Pakistan today as it did four years ago when it played a vital role in cobbling together a deal between Gen. Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto," said Sadanand Dhume, an expert on south Asia.

But does the US want to sort things out in Pakistan?

"Beyond concerns for (Pakistan's former envoy to US, Husain) Haqqani's welfare and due process, I don't think the US wants to be involved in any way regarding Pakistan's internal politics," said S Amer Latif, a south Asia expert with the Center of Strategic Studies.

"US-Pakistan relations are at a very sensitive juncture right now." Just as relations had begun looking promising, a Nato strike end of November on a Pakistani border post - killing 26 soldiers - undid it all.

For the US, Pakistan is a road made of egg shells now.