Doesn't this moment feel a bit like the withdrawal of USSR from Afghanistan?
The war is likely over and, with that, the gravy train for Pakistan.
They sure have perfected the art of boiling water at the right temperature. In the 80s, the water boiled just enough for a decade-long milking of the United States. In the 00s, the same happened once again.
In a perverse way, strategic depth is almost not the point. Strategic positioning to milk the patron power is the ball game. A triangular game where Pakistan is the pivot is what they seek.
The logic of concealing Osama becomes self-evident with this perspective. His capture would have ended the war. As long as he was at large, the water could be kept boiling in Afghanistan and funds could be squeezed from the US. The fate of Osama and of Afghanistan inevitably had to be secondary to this goal.
In the late 80s, after the gravy train stopped, Pakistan was left with a bankrupt State and a jihadi infrastructure. It redirected the jihad to India.
In the early 10s, after the gravy train will stop, Pakistan will be left with a bankrupt State and a jihadi infrastructure and the bomb.
If you were the Generals, would you not pull out the 80s playbook? Redirect the jihad to India. And this time, try to even create a new triangular game.
A thought experiment. What if nuclear Pakistan uses its jihad infrastructure to tie India down in return for Chinese funds? Is this so hard to contemplate?
In this game, China becomes the new US and India, in their jaundiced eye, becomes the new USSR.
One can imagine a whole series of other scenarios where the Pakistani State unleashes its fury at India. Can we deal with this? Can we afford to not deal with this? If not, how would we preempt?
The one thing I'm certain we cannot do is to bask in schadenfreude and assume that serendipity will deliver security. It's not "aman ki asha" that's needed now, rather "jang ki tayyari". If war does come, it's not Kashmir settlement that we should seek, rather a Pakistan settlement.
I fear that things will go south quickly. I sincerely hope not. But history and Pakistani tactics are not very reassuring.
Everybody knows the plague is coming. Everybody knows it's moving fast.