It would be hard to imagine a more self-defeating gesture than cutting a third of Americas aid to Pakistan, but thats what the Obama administration appears to be doing. The reason: to punish Pakistan for expelling American military trainers, and to force the Pakistani Army to be more effective in fighting militants. One can understand Americas frustration. Nato soldiers are being killed by Taliban. And when bomb factories are identified, Pakistanis warn the would-be bombers. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the US is not prepared to continue providing military aid at the current level unless and until we see certain steps taken. But America needs to consider what it really wants. Is punishment likely to convince Pakistan to subordinate its own interests to Americas? Will it promote a better relationship? Is cutting aid to the Pakistani military likely to make it more eager, or more able, to go after cross-border militants? The answer to all three questions is no. And it would be helpful to remember that Pakistan has taken more casualties in the fight against militants than has the United States. As in a marriage, it may be temporarily satisfying to punish your partner in a quarrel, but is it going to help sustain the relationship? And in this marriage, America needs Pakistan just as much as Pakistan needs America. Much of Americas supplies to Afghanistan come through the port of Karachi and are trucked up through the mountain passes. It would be impossible to conduct US military operations without Pakistans good will. American drone attacks in Pakistan have been vital to degrading Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Pakistan allows this violation of its territorial integrity even though it is extremely unpopular and has killed many innocent Pakistanis. The trouble with the US-Pakistani relationship has always been that its transactional from Americas point of view rather than strategic, as Pakistan would wish it to be. America is always saying: We give you money, now do exactly as we say and do it right now. Pakistan, on the other hand, would like to see more understanding of its problems. Not that Pakistan is blameless in this downward spiral of relations with the United States. The impact of the Raymond Davis affair was very hard on Pakistan. Davis, a CIA contractor, shot and killed two Pakistanis in the streets of Lahore and then stepped out of his car to photograph the corpses. Davis claimed it was a robbery, but it is more likely that the two dead Pakistani youths were following Davis on behalf of Pakistani intelligence to keep an eye on him. One can imagine the uproar if a Pakistani intelligence operative shot and killed two Americans in a US city. That being said, the United States needs to be more understanding of Pakistans position. Pakistanis are a proud people, and the humiliation of the Osama bin Laden raid will long linger. Obviously Bin Laden had some Pakistani help, but there is no indication that his whereabouts were known at the senior level. Obviously there are sympathisers within the Pakistani establishment. But that is a problem that cutting aid will only make worse. The United States has to appreciate how deeply unpopular it is with the rank-and-file, both within the armed services and the population at large. Washington should not do more to humiliate those who support America in the Islamabad government and armed forces, making their position even more untenable. As for the those militants the Americans want Pakistan to attack, it is clear to everyone that the United States is leaving, and that there will be elements of Taliban in Afghanistans future. The Americans are trying to make a deal with the Taliban, why shouldnt the Pakistanis? A friendly Afghanistan next door is a vital Pakistani interest. The United States needs to understand Pakistans desire to keep up relationships with some Taliban as a hedge against the future, just as the Americans are trying to establish relations with the Taliban in order to get out. For all its faults and contradictions the US-Pakistan relationship is vital to the United States. Washington should not let its imperfections goad it to self-destructive, if self-satisfying, punishments that are unlikely to change Pakistans behaviour. NY Times