If Pakistan did not respond in a positive way to the efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan, the United States and its partners needed to pursue a tough-minded strategy against it, a top American think-tank said in a report on Tuesday.
"If Pakistan will not play a positive role, the United States and its partners should pursue a tough-minded strategy," said the report by think-tank Atlantic Council, which is a result of a joint effort by eminent Americans like Gen. (Retd) David Petraeus, the former CIA Director, and James Cunningham, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, and Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani Ambassador to the US.
"The discussion with Pakistan must not be delayed, especially following the recent change in elected leadership and given the preponderance of influence of the military leadership in Pakistan's regional policies, including on Afghanistan," said the report, which reviews the one year of the implementation of the South Asia Strategy announced by President Donald Trump in August, 2017.
Pakistan, it said, had the most important external impact on the prospects for success of Trump's South Asia policy.
"It is widely recognised that the existence of safe havens in Pakistan makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get the Taliban leadership to seriously negotiate," it said.
"While Pakistan has suffered grievously from terrorism and sacrificed much in combating it internally, efforts to convince it to take needed action against the Taliban and Haqqani network within Pakistan's borders and to partner with the United States have not yet borne fruit," the report said.
Noting that it was beyond the scope of the report to address how to deal with Pakistan in detail, the think-tank said but a constant review of the messaging to Pakistan was needed, as was the elaboration of a multilateral campaign of pressure and incentives, for example, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gray-listing Pakistan and the US killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah in Afghanistan in June.
A redefinition of Pakistani interests was also needed, it added.
"The United States still seeks a healthy relationship with Pakistan, but it and its international partners, who have an important stake in this discussion, must confront Pakistani leaders with a choice about the future of their country that prevents a continuation of the status quo," the report said.
"In response to pressure from the Trump Administration, some Pakistani officials have blustered that Pakistan can rely on China and Russia. That is an illusion inimical to Pakistan's development and economic future, a framework that falls far short of the active, engaged economic-development and counter-terrorism relationship that the West can offer, or withhold," it added.
Afghanistan has attempted to assuage Pakistan's fear of India by making clear that its relations with India and Pakistan are not a zero-sum game and that India will not be permitted to harm Pakistan and its people via Afghanistan.
In fact, India was playing a positive, mostly low-key role in Afghanistan and could expand its assistance in development, training, business promotion, and democracy and elections as a way of strengthening Afghanistan, without impacting Pakistan's security, it said.
The report added that the success in implementing the Trump Administration's strategy and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's vision of peace via reconciliation with the Taliban would validate the many sacrifices Afghans, Americans and the international community had made.
"It will make Pakistan and the region more secure and prosperous, enable the withdrawal of foreign military forces, and with continued counterterrorism cooperation with Kabul and improved cooperation with Pakistan, mark a significant advance in the struggle against Islamist terror. That is an outcome deserving of continued long-term US and international engagement, and the support of those publics," the report said.
Among the other authors of the report are Bharat Gopalaswamy from the Atlantic Council, eminent Indian American expert Ashley Tellis, Congress leader Manish Tewari and Anita McBride from the American University.