Trump needs to look beyond cutting aid to Pakistan
The Trump administration, however, needs to look beyond cutting aid and taking measures such as stripping Pakistan of its ‘major non-NATO ally’ status if it wants to make Rawalpindi’s generals stand up and take noticeUpdated: Jan 03, 2018 08:50 IST
United States President Donald Trump began 2018 with a strident denunciation of Pakistan’s support for terrorism and a promise to sever the last US military assistance pipeline to that country. While this will sound good to many Indians, there is often a gap between Mr Trump’s tweets and actual US policy on the ground. There has also been a long-standing pattern of Washington wagging its finger at Pakistan, Islamabad making the minimum possible concession and the relationship continuing without any tangible change. Whether things will be different under Trump is yet to be seen.
There are some grounds to believe that Mr Trump’s tweet is more than a bit of presidential venting. One, the US and Pakistan worked together against the Haqqani terrorist network last year, resulting in Mr Trump praising Pakistan in October. But the Haqqani network is the closest of the Taliban affiliates to Rawalpindi and so unsurprisingly, that initial period of bonhomie has since run aground.
Two, the US’ decision to increase its military footprint in Afghanistan pits the US directly against the Taliban — and so the Taliban’s main backer, Pakistan.
Three, the Trump administration has a number of senior generals and staffers who have publicly expressed a belief that earlier US policies to Pakistan were failures and a harder line is necessitated.
Finally, a further cut in the aid to Pakistan would be in line with the US’ recent policy. The country’s security assistance touched $ 849 million in 2012 and has since fallen to $322 million.
Overall, US aid to Pakistan has dropped from $2.6 billion in 2012 to barely $250 million last year.
Given the US president’s known dislike for foreign assistance of any variety, it would not take much to continue this trend.
However, it is important to realise that the days when Washington held all the strings of influence in Islamabad are over. China provides 60 to 70% of Pakistan’s military equipment today. Its proposed $60 billion investments in Pakistan dwarf anything the US has to offer. The Bank of China’s ad hoc support for the Pakistan rupee in the past year and a half has alone been more than the US’ total aid to Pakistan in 2016.
Nonetheless, any friction between the US and Pakistan is a positive for India. But the Trump administration needs to look beyond cutting aid and taking measures such as stripping Pakistan of its “major non-NATO ally” status if it wants to make Rawalpindi’s generals stand up and take notice.