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US lawmaker calls for radical reset of ties with Pakistan

“Something must change in our dealings with a terrorist-supporting, irresponsible nuclear-weapons state, and it must change soon,” Congressman Ted Poe wrote in an opinion piece.

world Updated: Mar 10, 2017 12:10 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, London
Congressman Ted Poe,James Clad,Pakistan US ties
A Pakistani policeman stands guard at the shrine of Rehman Baba in Peshawar on February 17 following bomb attack on a shrine of 13th century Muslim Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in the town of Sehwan in Sindh province.(AFP File)

A leading Republican lawmaker has called for a “radical reset” of United States’s ties with Pakistan and urged new congressional hearings, joining a mounting demand for harsh measures to discipline an “appalling ally” and “quasi-adversary”.

“Something must change in our dealings with a terrorist-supporting, irresponsible nuclear-weapons state, and it must change soon,” Congressman Ted Poe, who heads the House of Representatives’ subcommittee on terrorism and non-proliferation, wrote in an op-ed authored jointly with James Clad, a former Pentagon official, in “National Interest” magazine on Wednesday. “Acquiescing in the current trends is not an option,” they added.

Saying “it’s time that the United States sets, unilaterally, the limits of its indulgence”, the authors have made three main suggestions: One, “don’t let the next crisis in South or Southwest Asia deflect our focus (from Pakistan).”

Two, “don’t rush to shore up Pakistan’s balance of payments via the IMF or other intermediaries, as we’ve done in the past”, and, three, “Let China pay that, if the Pakistanis wish to mortgage their future in that way.”

And at a closed-door briefing for 45 congressional staff on Tuesday — called “The Appalling Ally”, Poe asked for “a new series of Pakistan-focused hearings on Capitol Hill in upcoming months”, saying, “The problem cannot be ducked any longer.”

The new congress may just have picked up from where the last one left off, with lawmakers of both chambers frequently calling Pakistan a “duplicitous ally” and a “Frenemy” and asked for it to be named a state sponsor of terrorism.

The op-ed and the hearing come just weeks after a bipartisan group of South Asia experts urged the Trump administration to be “ready to adopt tougher measures toward Islamabad”, even the threat of declaring it state sponsor of terrorism.

Since May 2011, when Osama bin Laden was found and killed in a house just miles from Pakistan’s elite military school in Abbottabad, the one-time ally has been in a precipitous fall in US eyes, as a haven for all hues of terrorists.

Lawmakers killed a proposal by the Obama administration in 2016 to sell Pakistan new F-16 fighter jets over Islamabad’s failure to act against terrorists form tis soil, specially the Haqqani Network that is battling US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

They have also sought to tie up US financial assistance to Pakistan’s counter-insurgency measures, but as Poe and Clad argued in their piece, “Pakistan has become a quasi-adversary, receiving hundreds of billions through the years in direct and indirect US support, a strange hostage-like arrangement in which we pay Islamabad to do what it should be doing anyway…”

The new administration, which is still struggling to staff up, has not yet indicated if it has plans for Pakistan, but as a candidate, Trump had expressed concerns about the region, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and the fear of them falling in wrong hands.

Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal, said to be the fastest growing in the world, is a major concern in the US.

Robert Gallucci, a leading expert on non-proliferation, is reported to have said at the closed-door briefing, “While other countries have also sought nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s headlong accumulation of so many warheads amounts to a unique non-proliferation challenge so far unrestrained by outsiders’ diplomacy.”

In conclusion, Poe and Clad argued, “There’s a tendency to think of Pakistan as part of a troubling duality, with India and Pakistan in a death spiral. That’s out of date—and we have our issues with India too.”

First Published: Mar 09, 2017 21:21 IST