Afghan President Hamid Karzai presented the best facet of statesmanship when, in a recent TV interview, he said: "God forbid, if any war took place between Pakistan and the United States, we will stand by Pakistan.......If Pakistan is attacked and if the people of Pakistan needed Afghanistan's help, we will be there for Pakistan." He spoke of similar sentiments in case of an attack on Pakistan by India. In the same vein, Karzai said: "Afghanistan is a brother.......But, please brother, stop using all methods that hurt us and are now hurting you. President Karzai is, indeed, walking a tight rope to keep a balance in the two triangles: Pakistan-Afghanistan-America and Pakistan-Afghanistan-India; both pulling Afghanistan in opposite directions. Nevertheless, the prospects for a conventional land forces dominated conflict between the US and Pakistan is remote. Likewise, the likelihood of a long drawn out conflict between India and Pakistan is a distant possibility. Hence, Karzai's comments were more of rhetoric; international observers assessed these as a clumsy effort to blunt his latest comments about Pakistan and dilute the fallout of the recently concluded 'Strategic Agreement with India. More so, the Afghan President is known for his summersaults; his next Pakistan bashing spree may not be far away. In fact, he soon retracted the words about supporting Pakistan in case of war that he was heard clearly uttering in his TV interview. American Embassy spokesman in Kabul Gavin Sundwall said: "This is not about war with each other....... This is about a joint approach to a threat to all three of our countries." Several other officials also said that Karzai's remarks would not overshadow Hillary Clinton's visit. Karzai and Hillary were on the same wavelength during her trip to Kabul in demanding that Pakistan stop supporting Afghan insurgent groups. Soon after the interview was telecast, Karzais national security team jumped in to water down the spirit of his comments. The Deputy National Security Adviser said: "I think the President's remarks have been blown up without looking at the real context of the message he was trying to convey.It is a 50 minute-long interview. Of course, one or two sentences can't speak for a 50 minute-long interview on a specific subject." Another Afghan official opined: "It was totally careless, unnecessary and, yes, irresponsible.......He hasn't pleased anyone except, maybe, a few Pakistani generals." Earlier this month, Mr Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement with India. In all probability, the event was timed to coincide with the spell of tense ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, frictions in the Pak-US relations and Hillarys visit to Pakistan. Pakistan prudently deflected the pressure; Prime Minister Gilani said: "Both are sovereign countries, they have the right to do whatever they want to." Realising the failure of unilateral approach, America is working on a number of multilateral regional approaches to resolve the Afghan puzzle. American General John Allen recently indicated that Afghanistan needs a regional, not a national solution. Moreover, the United Nations is contemplating a plan for a joint security arrangement in the region, on the yesteryears model of 'Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Perception has it that NATO also has something on cooperative security and development that could be unveiled at the May 2012 Summit on Afghanistan. As regards regional countries, most of them yearn for good neighbourly ties with Afghanistan. They have taken initiatives in individual as well as collective capacities like, TAPI, Uzbekistan-Iran railway line, provision of Uzbek electricity to northern part of Afghanistan, and Pakistans proposed fast cargo railway line to connect Pakistan to Iran via Afghanistan. However, the efforts to take all six immediate neighbours on board as a structural entity have not yet succeeded; the region's accomplishments on Afghanistan have been more of bilateral achievements, rather than multilateral ventures. Distant neighbour India has been going overboard to dominate Afghanistan. It is among the largest foreign donors in Afghanistan having dumped nearly $2 billion over the last 10 years. In the garb of these projects, India has clandestinely positioned its trained soldiers on the Afghan soil. Firms engaged in development and social sector works employ ex-Indian servicemen for these assignments. The presence of ex-combatants in a country where acquisition of weapons is not a problem, alongside a shady agreement on the usage of an air base in Tajikistan reveals Indian ambitions to succeed America as neo-coloniser of Afghanistan. M.K. Bhadrakumar wrote on October 24 for Asia Times in his piece Pakistan to Play a Major Role in Afghanistan: The visit by Hillary Clinton to Islamabad turned out to be yet another defining moment in the endgame in Afghanistan.Clearly, Clinton's was a do-or-die mission.the US has publicly acknowledged the centrality of Pakistan's role in the Afghan endgame.(it) accepted the consistent Pakistani demand that the Haqqanis should be engaged in talks and that excluding them would make the entire process fragile.Clinton conceded repeatedly Islamabad's legitimate concerns about the Taliban operating out of safe havens on Afghan soil.......The US and Pakistan have passed the 'challenging phase in the last few months, the heavy pressure tactic to the point of brandishing the sword failed to produce the desired result and is unlikely to work. In sum, Washington sees the futility of visualising Pakistan, as a hostile power and of trying to impose an Afghan settlement that is unacceptable to the Pakistani military. The mantra is to 'incentivise Pakistan by inviting it to play a major role in Afghanistan, but on conditions, which also ensures that the USA's strategic interests remain protected. It essentially devolves on conceding Pakistani primacy in Afghanistan and putting the Pakistani leadership in charge of negotiating with their counterparts in Kabul. Robert Dreyfuss in his recent article, US Considering Afghan Ceasefire, published in The Diplomat opines: Hillary Clinton has raised the question of a US ceasefire in Afghanistan. It may be recognition that theres no military solution to this decade-old conflict.And for the first time in recent memory, Clinton specifically mentioned the idea of an Afghan ceasefire. That means that, in concert with a ceasefire designed to coax the Taliban to the bargaining table. Yet, caution is due against complacency; the Afghan issue is a complicated one. There would be many episodes of one step forward and two backward. Too many actors and interests are criss-crossing the paths. After her visit to Pakistan, Hillary visited Uzbekistan to allure it to allow passage of lethal war materials, destined for Afghanistan. Indeed, it was a move to sideline Pakistan. It is refreshing that despite tempting incentives, the Republic of Uzbekistan continues to hold on to its principled stance of not allowing the passage of ISAF and NATO military supplies to Afghanistan. Pakistan is keen to participate in any regional arrangement that could result in the stability of Afghanistan. In this context, Turkey, too, is playing a commendable role. All eyes are set on the next weeks events in Istanbul. However, no regional initiative under any brand name is likely to succeed which does not include China, as an active participant. Especially, the concept of 'New Silk Route would be a non-starter sans China. And Pakistan should not be expected to become a party to any American scheme to encircle or isolate China. The writer is a retired Air Commodore and former assistant chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force. At present, he is a member of the visiting faculty at the PAF Air War College, Naval War College and Quaid-i-Azam University. Email:khalid3408@gmail.com