By Anand Arni
This assessment takes a closer look at the events leading to the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity in Pakistan.
Key judgments from the assessment are:
- it is likely that this release is an offering presented by Pakistan before the Mattis/Tillerson visit to Pakistan.
- A clearer indication whether it’s back to business as usual in US—Pakistan relations will emerge after the Tillerson/Mattis visit as there is some divergence within US on interpreting the message behind this hostage handover.
- Going ahead, Pakistan may offer a few more things to the US related to the issue of terrorism. Some cards that it holds are: assistance to secure the release of three or more hostages presently with the Haqqani Network, action against the Haqqani Network itself, addressing Western concerns about outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and enhanced intelligence cooperation with the West. Pakistan will draw a redline around an enhanced role for India in Afghanistan. It will also argue that it needs the US to address its concerns to build domestic ground before it takes the next step.
- It is possible that Pakistan will argue that the first step would be a resumption of the Indo-Pakistan dialogue and that this will be matched by some steps on their part.
- How this issue plays out will be important for India because it will indicate if Trump's new strategy is substantially different from earlier US administrations with regards to its stance on Pakistan.