Importantly, this incident will further fuel anti-Americanism on Pakistani streets and might serve as a rallying point for its military and the civilian Government post the Mansoor Ijaz Memogate scandal. The current discord within Pakistan might also lead to more than expected stringent measures towards NATO specially Americans, who are seriously giving competition to India for the spot of the No 1 villain in Pakistan.
This is only the latest in a series of incidents that have pulled US-Pakistan relations downhill. Osama bin Laden being found and killed inside Pakistan was a watershed moment in US-Pakistan ties and will remain so. Such was the magnitude of the issue that the civilian Government reportedly feared a military coup, thus leading to what is now being called the 'Memogate scandal'. Since then, Pakistanis have routinely accused the Washington of infringing Pakistan's sovereignty and the Americans have counter-attacked Pakistan of not doing enough to fight terrorism on its soil. There have been serious diplomatic diatribes. Recall, former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, just before his retirement pointed to links between the dreaded Haqqani network and the powerful but much-maligned Pakistani intelligence ISI. It is clear that Islamabad has always played a selective game in targeting terrorists, and this policy has backfired for fomenting insecurity among the international forces in Af-Pak, both for India and Pakistan. The Americans need Pakistan to help bring various insurgent groups to the negotiating table in order to engineer a political settlement in Afghanistan, but Islamabad and the military in particular have half-hearted commitment wanting to reserve its own strategic hold in Afghanistan after Western forces' withdrawal.
Needless to say Islamabad is aware that Western forces could resort to other alternative means, even if they are more expensive and arduous and hence, suspending supply routes would not pay it many dividends.
Will US-Pakistan ties snap beyond repair? Prime Minister Gilani made plain it would not be 'business as usual'. But, Pakistan is highly dependent on American aid, and its military will be toothless without American assistance. China is seen as an all-weather friend, that Pakistan turns to whenever it feels betrayed by the Americans. Beijing as usual has offered support to Islamabad in the present case as well, but Chinese rising power has its own limitations and would not go out of the way to tie itself into commitments that might prove detrimental to its own interests.
President Obama would be clearly mindful of the impact that the Afghan war would have on his run for the Presidential elections in 2012. As the war has been a political migraine for his Presidency, specially after his Administration decided to withdraw by 2014 and hand over responsibilities to the Afghan forces. Obama would certainly want to show some successes on the ground to his voters and not continued complications in US-Pakistan ties. Clearly, the US because of geo-political reasons has invested heavily on the Pakistani military thus leading to a dysfunctional institution depleting any chances of Pakistan blossoming into an effective democracy. Years of dining with Washington have not produced any effective dividends towards democratization in Pakistan. This time also, Washington's need for Islamabad's assistance in Afghanistan and Islamabad's need for US aid will probably force them to make last minute compromises and continue the highly frayed relationship. But many fissures have been opened in the past months that will unravel further strain in this highly transactional relationship.