When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated unequivocally Sunday that Pakistani militants were behind the Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, standing beside him, conspicuously did not concur.
Nearly three weeks after the Mumbai rampage began, the world appears increasingly convinced of the link between Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, and Mumbai.
Pakistan, however, is not. It has not seen India's evidence, Mr. Zardari said. With India leading the calls for a crackdown, historic insecurities also come into play, says Laila Bushra, a Pakistani sociologist: "No one … wants to be seen bowing to Indian pressure."
A stalemate is looming. In hopes of breaking it, the United States and Britain are readying as much as $16 billion in aid, hoping money will push the financially troubled nation toward greater action. "Aid can be an effective lever to do this," says M.J. Gohel, a South Asia analyst at the Asia Pacific Foundation in London.
The goals reach beyond the current crisis. The US and Britain want Pakistan to dismantle the entire militant infrastructure it assembled in the 1980s, but which now threatens the state and the world. On his visit, Mr. Brown traced three-quarters of terrorist plots in Britain to Pakistan.
Pakistan is already taking action, with two major offensives against militants along its Afghan border. The money would support this effort and expand it. Brown pledged $9 million for improving security and for education to "break the chain of terrorism that links the mountains of Afghanistan to the streets of Britain."
The US is preparing to finalize a $15 billion aid package for Pakistan, Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts told reporters during a visit to New Delhi Monday. But unlike the Bush administration's policy of virtually writing $11 billion in blank checks to Pakistan since 9/11, Senator Kerry suggested that there would now be conditions – such as bringing Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, under civilian control. He said the ISI formed Lashkar-e-Taiba, though he didn't say that links still exist today.
"This is where pressure has to be brought," says Mr. Gohel. "It is critically important to strengthen the hand of the civilian government by aid with strings attached."
Though Pakistan raided camps associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba and detained several suspects last week, that momentum appears to have dissipated.
Within Pakistan, any debate about the country's need to take account for terrorist attacks allegedly launched from its soil has been drowned out by sensational accusations against India.
Public anger intensified this weekend after local media reported and the Pentagon confirmed that at least one Indian warplane flew two miles into Pakistani airspace toward Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city.
Both governments have sought to downplay the incident. India publicly denied that it happened; Pakistan said it received assurances that the incursion was a mistake. To many Pakistanis it was seen as further proof that India is trying to bait Pakistan.
"One hundred percent of people fear that an actual war with India is possible," says Taimour Afaq, a manager at a multinational company in Lahore.
The growing chorus of nations pointing their finger at Pakistan has created a siege mentality – that India is leading an international conspiracy to scapegoat Pakistan. It is a relic of Pakistani history: Three wars with India – one of which led to the independence of Pakistan's eastern portion (now Bangladesh) – have left an abiding fear that India's primary foreign-policy goal is to dismember Pakistan.
"It's difficult for Pakistan to differentiate between expression of Indian nationalist sentiment and sheer aggression," says Rasul Baksh Rais, a political scientist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.
In this context, financial aid is seen as perhaps the best way to pressure Pakistan to enact changes it might otherwise be reluctant to make. The challenge will be making the aid effective, says Gerald Price, a South Asia expert at Chatham House, a security think tank in London.
"Improving education in the tribal areas would be a great thing to do," he says. But with Al Qaeda sure to fight any intrusion, he adds: "How are you going to do it?"