Following the attack by the US Seals on the Abbottabad compound on May 2, the May 22 infiltration of the PNS Mehran, housing coveted aviation assets of the Pakistan navy, has served to demonstrate the depth of peril that the country is navigating through. The attack was focused; targeting the P-3C Orion capability of the navy, which constitutes its eyes and ears, for keeping watch over a multitude of threats that lurk in the vastness of the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea - both in peace and war. The highly versatile long range reconnaissance plane armed with Harpoon missiles, torpedoes and depth charges is capable of responding to surface naval vessels as well as the submarine threat and is a true force multiplier. The two P-3C Orion planes that were lost were part of a consignment of seven, which are under induction by Pakistan from the US and had undergone a modification programme to update their capabilities. This loss, even in an event of war would have been a stinging blow; losing them in an act of terrorism in peacetime is many times more painful. Nevertheless, the damage could have been more, but it was for Pakistan navys promptness in responding to the situation that contained the attackers from further ingress. Had it not been so, and if the attackers were not quickly surrounded and cordoned off, other aviation assets parked close by would also have been exposed to the risk of destruction. The valour of Lieutenant Yasir Abbas and his colleagues, who laid down their lives to avert a greater tragedy, needs to be acknowledged by the nation. The painful jolt provides us with an opportunity to focus on the threat mosaic that today confronts us squarely. The people who attacked Mehran were Pakistanis, who probably wanted to unleash an orgy of destruction to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden (OBL). Apart from the OBL factor, drone attacks that have become the staple of CIAs war on terror in the FATA region are feeding the anti-US frenzy for which the state of Pakistan, particularly its armed forces, are paying a bloody and heavy price. The deliberation with which the attackers homed on to the Orion capability of Pakistan navy also calls for a fine combing for the clues of an Indian involvement; their footprint in the TTP operations is beginning to emerge rather strongly. Even as Pakistan staggers under the weight of its partnership with the USA, the cardinal question remains whether the Americans are sincere in their commitments to help Pakistan overcome vulnerabilities arising out of this difficult association. Given the political priorities in the US and contemporary politics in Washington, it is manifest that the American policies are becoming bereft of considerations for Pakistans sensitivities. The emphasis remains on a unilateral pursuit of its interests, irrespective of the haemorrhage draining out our body politic of the strength to fight the terror threat. It is high time to engage the US in a substantive dialogue; not to haggle over the morsels of the balance of the Coalition Support Fund or the droplet dispensed aid under the Kerry-Lugar Act, but to determine the direction and the extent of our partnership in the fight against terror. As losses at Mehran amply demonstrated, in our unequal partnership with the US we are paying much in excess of the aid that the American lawmakers are beginning to think is enough for selling our sovereignty to the diktat of their establishment. Another development in the wake of the Mehran attack is the spate of propaganda that has begun to target Pakistans capability to take care of its nuclear assets. A major segment of such criticism emanates from India; duly motivated by its desire to undermine Pakistani credentials as a nuclear weapon state capable of taking care of its nuclear arsenal. Notwithstanding such misleading tirade, the threat of aggression from India is something against which Pakistan can never afford to lower its guard and the nuclear capability is the crucial factor that somehow balances out the complex matrix of maintaining credible deterrence in the face of Indias overwhelming conventional superiority. On part of our detractors, it borders on the naivet to equate the breach of security at Mehran with alacrity accorded to the storage of Pakistans nuclear assets. The security of nuclear assets is related to national survival and the armed forces stand committed to take care of this make or break national survival capability in this very spirit. At such a crucial juncture of our national history, targeting a specific air-arm capability of the Pakistan navy, when the country is not in a state of conventional war, is no ordinary event. This demonstrates the deep fissures within our society caused by our unequal partnership in the war on terror with the US. This time round the threat is not external, but constitutes an aggression from within, duly supported from inimical forces from across borders that we need to exorcise with due care and wisdom. Pummelled all around by the US for not doing enough and by the forces of extremism for siding with Washington and serving its interests, Pakistan finds itself between rock and a hard place. The scenario is complex, yet success remains within the ambit of possibility. Only the joint resolve of the nation and its armed forces steeled by the will to take the war to the terrorists hideouts and eliminate them shall help us prevail. n The writer is a freelance columnist.