The failure of Indo-Pak talks should not come as a surprise especially after the US apology for killing Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan-Pakistan border. The United States needs Pakistan more than it likes and this indispensability will continue to fuel Pakistani belligerence against India. The best way out for India, therefore, is to seclude the US from Indian engagement of Pakistan, keep the South Asia element minimal in Indo-US relations' building, and generally approach strategic issues from wholly Indian perspectives and needs.

In a break from the Vietnam era, the United States has no stomach for long wars. That era was characterized by overall continuity between administrations in respect of displaying will to fight foreign wars. This continuity certainly magnified violence and tragedies and scarred affected portions of the world epically. But continuity also gave US allies confidence to make tactical and strategic investments in Pax Americana despite underlying fear of sudden end so brilliantly captured in the picturization of the song of The Doors.

All that changed with the termination of the Cold War. 9/11 and the September 2008 bankruptcies drove final nails in the coffin of Pax Americana. Rightly or wrongly, two terms of George W.Bush drove the United States to fight two wars in two Muslim countries. George Bush's successor, Barack Obama, was for early closure of the wars, and this has happened in Iraq, where the situation is worse than when the US intervened, and that is likely to be replicated soon in Afghanistan, where American troops are in pullout mode. America needs Pakistan for a tidy Afghan withdrawal and India must keep strictly away from their messy and insane bargaining.

India was correct to reject US pressure to establish a military footprint in Afghanistan. It's not so much about doing the US's dirty job as that the United States is an unreliable ally. Objectively speaking, India cannot have a military role in Afghanistan which has been the graveyard of big powers. But making plans on US assurances and guarantees is still more suicidal. For all the tough US talk against Pakistan, there was niggling fear that America would succumb to Pakistani pressure. And since American support to Pakistan (military and otherwise) has determined its behavior towards India, Pakistan was expected to play hardball during recent talks after the US apology. And so it has happened. Not all the evidence in the world will move Pakistan to shut down its anti-India terror assets.

So what lessons are to be learnt from recent events? Indo-US relations must follow a separate course from Indo-Pak ties. No hyphenation must be permitted. Where the United States needs India's tactical and strategic cooperation to punish Pakistani terrorism and nuclear proliferation, it must be given, with no reciprocation expected. But India should rebuff demands for Kashmir concessions or leniency on Siachen to make Pakistan more amiable for peace in South Asia and particularly towards India.

In other words, India must be reconciled to never finding peace with Pakistan. With the pre-eminence of the army in that country, peace can never come. The army leads the deep state. But such cruel understanding of Pakistan should also advise India what to do for a long time. It must do everything to prop up/ legitimize Pakistan's civil-democratic forces and fight the military's putschist propensity and anti-India terror policies. For that reason, back channels must remain open with Pakistan's top civilian leaders, including president Asif Ali Zardari and opposition leader Nawaz Sharief.

But no concessions should be made to Pakistan. It must be clarified to Pakistanis that India is not United States. It will not submit to nuclear or terror blackmail. Pakistan's best chance is for its civilian leaders to strengthen democratic institutions, contain the military's extra-constitutional ambitions, put the lid on disputes with India, and work for peace and prosperity in the sub-continent. These principles should guide India's engagement with Pakistan from where the US must be thoroughly excluded. It is only when Pakistan realizes that the US does not -- and won't -- matter in its relations with India that sense will dawn.

It is up to India to crack the whip.