The firing by Nato helicopters on a Pakistani check post, killing no less than 24 Pakistani soldiers, has created even more difficulties in a troubled relationship, and should have helped bring home to the USAs friends in government that the massacre took place because of the countrys participation in Americas war on terror. The Pakistani government, both its elected component and the permanent bureaucracy, are doing their best to repair the relationship, but the USA has been used to cheap repairs. There is a precedent, the Nato helicopter attack last year, which led Pakistan to suspend the supply route to Afghanistan, but it reopened on receipt of an apology. It seems that the Pakistani and American sides are presently negotiating a price. That is an unstable basis for a relationship that is supposed to be as broad as the USA claims it has with Pakistan. However, it is, perhaps, illustrative that the rulers in Islamabad consider the relationship they enjoy with the USA, as outweighing the lives of Pakistani soldiers. Pakistani soldiers, too, need to consider what they are getting into. The attack is the second, and, probably, will not be the last. The apologies, if at all they come, will bring no soldiers back to life. There is also the question of how far the alliance, which is supposed to be directed against the terrorists, actually does so. After all, it now seems that the USA, whose helicopters did the killing, is trying to play catch-up in the number of Pakistani armed forces personnel killed. The armed forces are thus involved in a two-front war, both against the militants and their supposed allies. If the Indian threat is factored in, it becomes a three-way threat the armed forces are faced with, and which they must act against. The angst among the public is because there is a realisation that this is an impossible task. Be that as it may, the story that the USA has initially come up with merely feeds into American prejudices, of Nato helicopters firing on militants fleeing to a Pakistani check post for protection, thus proving, once again, that Pakistanis are providing support to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. That the story is untrue, more so, raises the possibility of the USA trying to send a message to Pakistan, such as the implacability of its hostility, once it regards Pakistan as a hostile State. The catch in that is that the USAs basis of remaining in Afghanistan - the Karzai regime - is weak and could collapse at any time. It certainly does not control the border territories, which are known as Yaghestan, and are as inhospitable on the Afghan side of the Durand Line as on the Pakistani, and where the incident occurred. The USA at least has conceded that Pakistan has a large number of dead soldiers on its hands, and should realise, as it must have, since it has not yet made the claim, that the local commander is at fault. For this to happen, there should have been a multiple failure, all along the chain of command, of the information that Pakistani check posts were not to be fired at. Thus, Pakistanis pointing the finger at the Isaf Commander, and the US General commanding its forces in Afghanistan, are justified. However, blaming him leads to an even more frightening prospect: The General is in constant touch with the political leadership, both of Nato, through its Secretary General and of the USA, through both its Defence Secretary and President. However, there is a catch: The Isaf Commander is an American General, and will only take covert instructions from the President, not from Nato. Either he received instructions, or he thinks the US President too weak to harm him. The incumbent, General John Allen, might remember that his predecessors predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, was sacked for being disrespectful to the President, and might have calculated that Obama would not like to sack another commander in Afghanistan. Of the fallout, the ending of Nato supplies moving through Afghanistan accompanies the demand for the vacation of Shamsi Airbase by the USAF. Both are, perhaps, empty measures which the Americans could afford at a pinch. The Nato may well have developed alternative, longer and more expensive supply routes through Central Asia, and the USA may have shifted drone operations from Shamsi to Afghanistan, but it is important for Pakistan not to be involved in these activities. At the same time, while the drones were to continue operating, Nato was to end its mission and thus would not require supplies to reach it. Perhaps, of more significance was the decision by Pakistan not to attend the Bonn Conference, where the future of Afghanistan was to be decided. This was not just because of Pakistans importance, but also because while attendance would be a barely noticed sign of obedience, non-attendance would be a very prominent sign of rebellion. As the USSR was using the USAs need for supply lines over it to try and make it reconsider its European missile defence plans, Pakistani routes were not to be written off, and the effort was still on to preserve them. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khars statement, that any future agreements would have to be written, was revelatory of two things. First, that present agreements were not in writing, and also that there would be future agreements. This indicates that the Foreign Office is willing to do a deal. So far, the military, presumably still in shock at such mass killing, is not willing. The killings indicate what should have been clear, that the USA does not value the deaths of so many Pakistanis in the war on terror, including that of a large number of security personnel. The PPP has unappealing options, assuming as it does that the USA has placed it in power to do its bidding. Either it can end the countrys cooperation, in which case the USA will try to bend it to its will (and this is the context in which the memogate scandal gains a peculiar significance), or it can try to ride out the present storm of national rage, though this will mean a break only until the next American outrage. That there will be one is inevitable, because the USA pattern has been one of riling its supposed allies by military outrages. While there have been a number of bombings of civilians in Afghanistan, loudly protested by President Hamid Karzai, in Pakistan, after the drone attacks, there has been the Raymond Davis affair, followed by Admiral Mike Mullens remarks, and now this. The underlying cause behind all is American arrogance, which will only lessen if it is tempered by the caution engendered by dealing with an independent government, rather than dealings characterised by the belief that it can be all made all right in the end. Pakistan should not have made the present devils bargain, for it has brought none of the benefits it was supposed to, apart from not being attacked by the USA, itself as remote a possibility in 1999 as in 2011. All it has brought is the USAs giving India an enhanced role in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, not to mention death for Pakistanis. Only if the government stays the course, and refuses to allow any further misuse of its territory, it could avoid such incidents in future. The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as Executive Editor of TheNation. Email: