Money talks: on U.S.-Pakistan ties

That the U.S. will continue to withhold $255 million in Foreign Military Financing to Pakistan this year suggests it is prepared to downgrade its ties with Pakistan further in an effort to hold it to account on terrorism. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley cited Pakistan’s “double game” of cooperating with the U.S. and harbouring terrorists who attack its troops in Afghanistan. Mr. Trump’s own tweet, a day earlier, on January 1, was less temperate in its wording. He accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit” and of treating the U.S. leadership as “fools”. Pakistan has reacted, but without the same heat in its words. After a National Security Council meeting of top generals and ministers convened by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, it issued a statement expressing “disappointment” over the U.S. statements, and referring to Pakistan’s record in fighting terrorism and providing support to the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. One reason is that the U.S. decision to hold back the $255 million was not unexpected. In May last year, the Trump administration had decided to cut the annual outlay for 2018 from $255 million to $100 million. In August, it notified Congress it would withhold the current tranche due for 2016 as well, while a decision on 2017 was still pending. Second, while the overall downslide in ties with the U.S. will be a major worry for Pakistan, the cancellation of funds may not be that alarming. American assistance to Pakistan is at its lowest levels since 2001. Third, Pakistan’s confidence that it has an alternative in China has grown, with Beijing’s pledge of more than $100 billion in loans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor infrastructure, power projects, and so on. The question, then, is whether the U.S. will consider stronger measures, such as stopping all funding, sanctions, or cancelling Pakistan’s ‘major non-NATO ally’ status.

From India’s point of view, any attempt to hold Pakistan’s feet to the fire on its support to terror groups is a positive development. It is particularly important that the U.S. follow through on its ultimatums in this respect. However, all American statements so far focus on Pakistan’s support to terror groups that threaten Afghanistan, and more particularly, the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Therefore, action against the groups that threaten India is unlikely to be an immediate priority. New Delhi must also be mindful of the impact of a more fractured U.S.-Pakistan relationship on regional security. Above all, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, like that between India and the U.S. and India and Pakistan, is a long-standing bilateral one. While welcoming all moves to address India’s core concerns on terror, New Delhi must ensure it doesn’t get ensnared or triangulated in the equation between Washington and Islamabad.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 3:35:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/money-talks/article22360932.ece

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