With revelations that Pakistani intelligence services planned the July 7th attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, the continent is quickly approaching what may turn out to be a confrontation of massive proportion. While this may come to no surprise as the two nations frequent headlines over Kashmir and other incendiary issues including religion and territorial encroachment, India and Pakistan have long been at odds and may be facing another enormous hurdle to avoid hostilities. How the United States factors into this relationship may prove to be a critical factor in determining the course of action.

The U.S. has played both sides of this conflict for sometime now, correctly recognizing India as the more natural ally (English speaking, democratic, free market) but acknowledging that combating terrorism in the region would be incredibly difficult without the support of the Pakistani government.  No matter who occupies the President’s desk it has been critical to have the military and political support of Pakistan, given its proximity to Afghanistan and the Middle East as a whole. However as the last year of conflict has revealed, Pakistan’s support may be tongue in cheek. With the revelation of a conspiracy to attack the Indian embassy and the orchestration by Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan, it appears to be another step in the direction of open confrontation.

Sooner or later Washington will have had it’s fill and begin to (as it already has) construct a strategic plan for increased levels of engagement in the region. It has been left with little alternative given the attacks on the border to Afghanistan and the deaths of allied forces. Falling to both the department of defense and the intelligence community, it would go far beyond the border engagement that has already taken place, and delve more at the heat of the problem: the inner workings of the Pakistani government.

ISI has been working to undermine US interests abroad. Whether or not the plans against the Indian embassy (and others that may or may not be discovered) had support at the top from Director General Nadeem Taj and President Musharraf, it must be made clear to Pakistani forces they must not continue to engage the US and its allies in anything close to resembling a proxy war. Doing so casts the nation in the same light as Iran, which is not in its best interests if the nation wishes to progress. If it cannot control elements of its military and intelligence divisions, the consequences may be as severe as to warrant stronger military engagement inside the borders of Pakistan.

The US would reach out to India and encourage cooperative action against Pakistan, and given their history it may not take much to convince Prime Minster Singh that it is in the best interests of India to help stabilize the region. Given the revelations of the attack on the embassy, it would also allow for significant political willpower to successfully mobilize both the public and military for increased action. However, Prime Minister Singh is a deft politician and scholar who oversaw huge economic growth during his years in the government. He may wish to avoid any potential hostilities that could spiral out of control, although will most certainly face a call for action from the right given the Kabul bombings.

What form of action and the level of engagement remains to be seen, but at this point in time and given the cards on the table it’s hard not to seriously consider a stronger alliance with India working to target elements in Pakistan that have either gotten out of Musharraf’s grasp, or were never under his control in the first place. The best response may be coordinated efforts between the intelligence agencies of the US, India, and UK to identify those responsible and respond accordingly. These actions, in coordination with state diplomacy holding Musharraf accountable, may be enough to address the conflict while avoiding the beginning of a conventional war that surely would not end as one.

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