General Pervez Musharraf has turned in another masterly TV performance. While ostensibly addressing his nation, he aimed his message at the US and India.
For those who cared to read between the lines, it spelt out the price for double-crossing the Taliban: Lift sanctions, give us Kashmir and write off our $30 billion debt.
These demands do appear excessive considering that the pay-off for supporting the US in the jehad against the erstwhile Soviet Union in the 1980s never quite exceeded $10 billion worth of arms and economic aid. They are also patently unrealistic.
While American leaders are sensitive to Pakistan's need to manage its public opinion, there is nothing to suggest that they will allow countries to impose conditions in exchange for their support for fighting terrorism.
While in the medium-term, India, like Israel, is bound to come under pressure to resolve situations as in Kashmir that breed terrorist action, the US cannot but be aware of the perils of condoning terrorist actions in the name of some or the other cause.
The destruction and deaths at the World Trade Center ought to be a major point of departure in world attitudes towards terrorism. Having done the unbelievable, terrorists could tomorrow do the unthinkable -- detonate a nuclear device in a city or unleash some terrible biological virus.
America, the major target, is now learning Terrorism Inc is an MNC. Terrorists rampaging in Kashmir and Chechnya come from the same pool as those involved in attacks against the US.
General Musharraf's efforts aimed at extracting whatever gain is possible from the terrible tragedy in the US are true to type. Sociologist Dipankar Gupta once termed Pakistan's nationalism as predacious.
The "Pakistani" movement against British colonialism was prefunctory. Instead, Muslim League "nationalism" preyed on the Indian national movement and managed to walk off with Pakistan.
Pakistan's successful hunt in the cold war, one that paid huge dividends in terms of military and economic aid, was formally predicated on fighting communism. But as even the Americans are now willing to accept, these were false premises.
In 1980, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan provided Pakistan with yet another opportunity to display its prowess as a predator of the international system. For the US, Pakistan was a frontline state, in danger of imminent invasion.
For military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, it was an opportunity to obtain military and economic gains for Pakistan. Zia initially rejected American aid as "peanuts". For one full year, the country that was under an allegedly imminent threat of "communist invasion" held out till the Americans upped the ante.
Just how threatened Pakistan was is borne out by the fact that Pakistan kept just one army corps facing Afghanistan through the Afghan war, while the bulk of its army faced India.
But this time, in trying to obtain concessions in exchange for its cooperation, Pakistan may not just be misreading the situation, but seriously misjudging it.
The US response has been emphatic and quite clear: This is not going to be a single-strike operation to capture Osama, but a sustained long-term campaign to eliminate the Taliban and fundamentalist groupings along the Pak-Afghan border.
Should it be successful, it will mean a transformation of Pakistan's security and foreign policy. Afghanistan can no longer be seen as strategic space for Pakistan vis-a-vis India, and nor can it any longer nurture fundamentalist forces to attack India in the name of Kashmir.
But this transformation will not come easily. The ties that bind Pakistan to these two policies are very firm. Given Pakistan's large Pushtun population, it has close links of kinship and religion with the Taliban.
Pakistani military intelligence officers played a key role in undermining the legitimate Afghan government of Burhanuddin Rabbani in the mid-1990s. Thousands of Pakistani army personnel fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the Taliban to capture the country.
The border between the two countries is virtually an open one, and dotted with madarsas and training camps that gave birth to the Taliban in the first place.
Getting Pakistan to change its India policy will not be easy either. For 50 years, Pakistan's central policy goal has been to get parity with India.
After failing to balance India through external alliances with the US and China, Pakistan embarked on more dangerous routes after the Bangladesh war -- the acquisition of nuclear weapons capability and aiding separatist movements in India.
In the 1980s, it provided sanctuary and support to Sikh terrorists, some of whom still live in Pakistan. Beginning 1990, Pakistan aided and armed separatists in Kashmir, and when this movement began to wane, Pakistani jehadis were sent in and a wider campaign to destabilise India initiated.
But the US that is now putting Pakistan through the wringer, is different from the one that came to the region after a two-decade hiatus in 1980. US attitudes then were naive and in their ideological zeal to defeat the Soviet Union, they did not look too closely at Pakistan's motivations in joining its crusade or, indeed, the consequences of the jehad it spawned.
It would be safe to say that despite playing a role in encouraging the creation of the Taliban, the US today would like to undo many of the things it did in the heat of the moment in the past.
Its current strategy is to get the Pakistani army to begin the process by first breaking the Taliban and in the process confronting and defeating the fundamentalist forces within Pakistan.
This could lead to civil conflict, but moderate elements in Pakistan will be able to prevail. Should Pakistan indicate that it is serious about abandoning jehad and jehadis, India could undertake serious negotiations to end the Kashmir dispute.
It is in everyone's interest to have Pakistan on board the anti-terrorist coalition and no one gains by prolonged conflict in this region. Contrary to General Musharraf's fantasies, India wants a peaceful and stable Pakistan.
Abraham Lincoln once said of an America divided into slave and free states: "A nation divided against itself cannot stand."
Neither can a country that says it is eager to combat terrorism, and yet allows its soil to be used for recruiting, funding and arming people who target non-combatant civilians, in the name of a freedom movement or a religious cause. Pakistan must seize the moment and overcome its jehadic inclination.
Published in TimesOfIndia. I am eager to see the outcome of recent crisis Pakistan is facing and how it would manipulate the biggest manipulator US.