After several threats went unheeded, the United States, according to news reports, has warned Pakistan during their latest strategic dialogue to squeeze military aid to that country if it does not honestly and purposefully neutralize the Al-Qaeda/ Quetta Shora/ Haqqani Taliban terrorist leadership in FATA and particularly in North Waziristan.

The US aid-reduction or cut-off threat to Pakistan is not new but was never earlier enforced. Pakistan since independence has subsisted on foreign military and other aid whose main donor has been America and that has been linked to the US's Cold War imperatives and its post-post-Cold War conflicts against international terrorism chiefly originating in Afghanistan. The two other countries that have made substantial financial contributions to Pakistan over the years but again linked to their specific needs have been Saudi Arabia especially during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and China for the Gwadar port, roads and other infrastructure and most significantly for the Pakistani civil and military nuclear programmes.

But it is the United States which has been the lead bankroller of Pakistan and there is a substantial basis for argument that this has prevented Pakistan from standing, so to speak, on its own feet. The Pakistani civilian and military leaderships have both often and consistently made the plea that Pakistan would succumb to Pakistani Taliban/ Al-Qaeda terrorism and break up if US aid is switched off. Mostly in fear of that, successive US administrations have been propping Pakistan with aid. A nuclear-armed, failed and collapsed state of Pakistan, with terrorists gaining control of WMDs, is the ultimate international nightmare.

Up to now, Pakistan has succeeded with this strategy. On one hand, it has consumed all the aid coming from the US, diverting even civilian resourcing for military purposes, with the main accent on arming against India, its large and powerful eastern neighbour against which it has provoked three wars on Jammu and Kashmir. On the other hand, Pakistan has declined to act against the Al-Qaeda/ Afghan Taliban in its own territories even as they successfully prevent US and NATO efforts to establish democracy in Afghanistan. An Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban is supposed to be in Pakistan's best interests, both to contain Pashtun nationalism that could affect Pakistani territorial integrity, and allegedly to prevent an Indian flanking attack on Pakistan's western border and to create unrest in Baluchistan. There is no evidence that India has any interest in Afghanistan beyond hoping for and working towards making it a democracy to prevent jihadi terrorism gaining permanent foothold to its obvious detriment in South Asia. What Pakistan, however, does not understand is that, by straining relations with the United States for re-establishing a Taliban Afghanistan to balance India, it is angering the US beyond measure, risking its nationhood, and over and above everything, congealing the world's opprobrium against it for harvesting terrorism as state policy.

This writer and this magazine consistently had advocated that the United States must employ its aid to Pakistan as a weapon even at the risk of breaking up that country, with its nuclear weapons previously seized to prevent slippages to the terrorists. Even this notion that Pakistani nukes will fall into terrorist hands only in a build up to war with India or if Pakistan cracks up misses the Al-Qaeda/ Taliban links to the Pakistani military and intelligence establishments. Pakistani nukes are at permanent risk from terrorists, although Pakistan would be incentivized to give up the WMDs, in whatever form, to its favoured terrorist groups if its collapse is inevitable.

Neither the world nor the US in particular should tolerate this Pakistani nuclear blackmail, sometimes expressed overtly and most often via nudges and winks. The more Pakistan is appeased, the more it will resort to blackmail, and it will correctly assess that the international community and especially America has no stomach to call its nuclear terrorism bluff. But US moves threatening aid to Pakistan, if they have been correctly reported, are baby steps in the right direction. Pakistan cannot bank on Saudi Arabia to bail it out (at any rate, no bailout package can complete with what the US is pouring into Pakistan), nor will China step in to satisfy American aid shortfalls. Despite claims on both sides that they are all-weather allies, China contributed a pittance to Pakistan's flood relief, and the UN had to intervene to shame the Chinese leadership to be a bit more generous. Its earlier contribution was far less than the Indian flood aid to Pakistan, which Pakistan churlishly has refused to utilize.

The danger though is that the US may back off on following through on its aid threat to Pakistan, permitting Pakistan's business-as-usual policy of strategizing upon Al-Qaeda/ Taliban terrorism against India, the US and the world to continue. But matters may be out of US hands once it leaves Afghanistan starting July of 2011. Perhaps US aid threats to Pakistan arise from this inevitability of withdrawing from Afghanistan, and if that is so, the threat must be enforced. In the fate of individuals and nations, change cannot be resisted beyond a point. The US and the rest of the world must embrace a policy of zero tolerance towards Pakistani terrorism, and take all the requisite steps for it, including, if necessary, terminating every sort of aid to Pakistan.