Americans may be thinking that by doling out money to Pakistan and helping it get a financial package from the IMF or teasing India on Kashmir, they will renew their old game of balancing act in South Asia, but by doing so, are they not trying to hurt their own interests?

Every now and then politicians in both India and the United States get carried away in describing the bilateral relationship— between the oldest democracy and the largest democracy, or more recently the oft mentioned words, natural partners. But successive administrations in Washington over the last seven decades have not forgotten to remind the world that it very often suffers from amnesia when it comes to placing Pakistan in the scheme of things globally, in the region of South Asia or in dealing with India. And the Biden administration is no exception, the only difference being that it is dealing with a “natural partner” with good memory!

For close to two years the Biden White House kept its distance from Pakistan and for good reasons. President Joseph Biden since coming to the White House in January 2021 did not feel the need to dial and talk to Prime Minister Imran Khan to the point that the latter eventually linked his ouster to a plot between the Opposition and Washington to bring in a Sharif. Only history or a great revelation will unravel whether Prime Minister Khan was correct in the Washington linkage but circumstantially things have fallen in place.

The Biden administration has humored Islamabad with a US$ 450 millions F-16 package in the name of supplies and maintenance; allowed its new Ambassador Donald Blome to travel to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and call it Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK). This writer is not sure if the well-known India baiter in the House of Representatives, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, called it AJK when she visited PoK during her April visit this year. But it is generally assumed that a diplomat would show some finesse knowing full well the sensitivities involved.

More recently two Coast Guard Frigates which are a part of the U.S. Fifth Fleet made a port call at Karachi as a part of an “ongoing series of joint exercises and technical exchanges” between the two countries. Of course, as a part of the ongoing goodwill, sailors of the two sides played soccer and volleyball. Suddenly the Biden administration appears to be putting Pakistan back on the strategic radar as well as giving it a new lease in the ongoing war on terrorism.

If politicians and Generals in Pakistan are suddenly playing ball with Washington, it is not without expectations—the doles for the so-called fight on terror aside, Islamabad needs the Biden administration for its bailout packages from the International Monetary Fund as well as general monetary help as for instance in flood relief. But the real test will be in holding Pakistan’s feet to fire on all aspects of terrorism including of the cross-border variety instead of “rewards” for pushing known terrorists across the Durand Line to be picked off by American drones. It is generally assumed that for the United States to act with impunity in going after thugs in Afghanistan, the sophisticated drones would need to stay afloat in friendly skies like that of Pakistan.

There are a few things that the Biden administration needs to bear in mind in dealing with India and heading the list would be in an understanding that naiveté is not a part of the foreign policy vocabulary. India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, put it succinctly when saying that Washington was “fooling no one” on the maintenance package for the F-16s and the war on terror. When was the last time that Pakistan’s Air Force used the F-16s in hunting down the Osama bin Ladens and the Ayman al Zawahiris in the North East Frontier Agency or on the Pakistan- Afghanistan border?

Official India need not be convinced much that the US$ 450 million was a payback of sorts and that more may be to follow directly and indirectly. Of course, there is one perception that the F-16s package may have had to do with keeping Pakistan away from moving too much into the China orbit or of a subtle reminder to India of Washington’s displeasure over New Delhi’s stance on Ukraine at the United Nations Security Council in spite of all that was said in public. Pakistan, for example, is already firmly in the Chinese orbit to the point of being considered as a client state of the communist giant; and Washington need not inconvenience itself on bizarre logic and rationales for any goodies package to Islamabad as far as India is concerned. India would have been perfectly fine with the package minus the terrorism angle which was simply laughable to start with.

But the Biden administration would do well to think deep before opening another funding pipeline for so-called anti-terrorism. Bruce Riedel, a top national security analyst and former senior administration official not long ago put it this way about Pakistan: “The army and its intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), has trained, equipped, advised and directed the Afghan Taliban and LeT for decades. The ISI was deeply involved in Taliban attacks in Kabul and the LeT attack in Mumbai in 2008. It facilitates their fundraising in the Gulf states. It provides safe haven and sanctuary for the leadership of these groups. LeT leader Hafiz Saeed operates openly in Pakistan, routinely denouncing America, India, and Israel”.

And the former President Donald Trump in a tweet of January 1, 2018 was focussed and blunt: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” The supreme irony of this aid is that at least US$ 25 billion had been dished out to Islamabad prior to the SEAL raid on bin Laden’s compound in 2011; and the dreaded al Qaeda leader was just within earshot of a military garrison in Abbottabad. Not surprisingly nearly everyone that mattered in Pakistan expressed surprise.

President Biden and his administration would do well to keep in mind one more thing when it comes to Pakistan-- of what the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said in 1849. “… the more things change, the more they stay the same”. When it comes to dealing with Pakistan and terrorism, the proof of the pudding is really in the eating.

***For 14 years the writer was a senior journalist in Washington covering North America and the United Nations. Views expressed are personal.