The relations between the US and Pakistan is at its nadir. President Trump, well known for speaking his mind, in an interview to an American TV channel, directly castigated Islamabad. The US President said, “We were giving Pakistan $1.3 billion a year, they didn’t do a damn thing for us”. This is by far the sharpest rebuke ever for Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan for once, found himself on a tricky wicket. He tweeted the usual platitudes of how Islamabad did the maximum to fight against terrorism.
The war of words escalated with Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua summoning the US Charge d’Affaires Paul Jones and said that the ‘allegations’ levelled by Mr. Trump were “unwarranted and unsubstantiated”. This is nothing new between the US’ ‘frontline ally in the war against terror’. It all started with the Trump administration’s Afghan policy, unveiled last year. The US President has since then repeatedly asked Pakistan to fall in line and stop aiding terrorists of all hues who have taken refuge in Pakistani territory. By far, Mr. Trump is the only US President who has refused to believe Pakistan at face value.
The US and Pakistan were close allies since the late 1970’s during the Cold War era. However, the scenario changed post 9/11. Islamabad had to grudgingly follow Washington, as it launched the war against terror in Afghanistan. The then Pakistan military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf started a dangerous double game. He accepted the US aid including military aid; however, he allowed Taliban and other terror groups to stay in Pakistan and used them as proxy against India and other countries. This policy has now been exposed globally.
In the same television interview mentioned earlier, President Trump also mentioned that the most wanted terrorist Osama Bin laden was staying under the nose of the Pakistani Army in the cantonment city of Abbotabad. This also raised heckles in Pakistan. However, the US President’s candid observations would not go further if Pakistan is not held accountable for its actions. The Pentagon is not on the same page with President Trump on the issue.
The Pentagon said, Pakistan remains a critical partner of the US in South Asia for finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict. The fact remains that the US needs Pakistan for facilitating talks with the Afghan Taliban. Washington has already held exploratory talks with the Taliban and needs to further engage with the group for finding a lasting solution to the Afghan crisis.
Following the spat between the two countries, the US has suspended $1.66 billion security assistance to Pakistan. Islamabad is already under financial strain and is seeking aid from friendly countries as also from international agencies. The suspension of the US aid could have an impact on the proposed bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Just two months back, Washington had cancelled a $300 million military aid to Pakistan.
So far, Pakistan has not taken any steps to rein in the terror groups that flourish in its territory and launch attacks against India and other countries. The US and other global players have cautioned Pakistan against this policy. However, Islamabad has only given promises instead of acting seriously.
Analysts believe that Washington’s patience is running out and it needs some concrete proof of action by Pakistan on the promises the country had made. Otherwise, the bilateral ties could deteriorate further. Experts are of the opinion that if Pakistan was to take some strong measures against the Taliban, peace would come to Afghanistan rather quickly. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan would benefit from a huge “peace dividend”, as espoused by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Also, if Pakistan takes strong measures against groups which act against India, it could harvest huge economic benefits from better economic ties with India. India has always maintained that it seeks friendly ties with Pakistan and would walk the talk if Islamabad shuns terror and comes clean.
Script: Kaushik Roy, Air News Analyst