The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, has said he will push for tripling non-military US aid to Pakistan, putting that country and Afghanistan at the top of his panel’s agenda in the new Congress.
In an interview with Reuters, Kerry said he also hoped to revive the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would commit the US to refrain from nuclear testing. The Senate rejected the treaty in 1999.
Kerry, who visited Pakistan in December and met President Asif Ali Zardari, wants to advance legislation similar to a Senate measure drafted last year by Vice President-elect Joe Biden that increases economic assistance to Pakistan to help fight terrorism in the nuclear-armed state.
“I think it is essential,” Kerry said in the telephone interview. “They (Pakistan) have a huge economic crisis. If anything winds up being one of the triggers for chaos in the country, it’s going to be the economic implosion, as much as anything else.”
Biden, a senator from Delaware and the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, takes up his new office with President-elect Barack Obama next week. He visited both Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last few days.
The Pakistan aid bill Biden authored last year with Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar would have authorized a tripling of nonmilitary aid to Islamabad, to $1.5 billion annually, for five years.
The cash was to go to help improve schools, build clinics, drill wells and reform police in Pakistan. In his former post as a senator from Illinois, Obama also signed on as a co-sponsor.