During the Cold War the US had used Pakistan to punish India for joining the Soviet camp. Now Washington is using India to punish Pakistan for being so close to China which has in the meanwhile succeeded in turning a unipolar world led solely by the US into a multi-polar one, dominated as well by Beijing and Moscow.
In the Cold War days the US did not mind our friendship with China. In fact President Nixon had used Pakistan to establish US links with Beijing as in those days the latter was having troubles with the USSR, the then arch rival of Washington. And in the 1970s, China did not look as if it would very soon beat the champion of capitalism—the US—at its own game.
Today, China has assumed the role of virtual challenger to the US in the world market place. It has established its own rival World Bank called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, The New Development Bank—a rival Asian Development Bank— and has acquired membership of the International Monetary Fund. And through its one belt, one road project it is trying to physically link-up the world markets building connecting ports, roads, rails and bridges. This connectivity is expected to bring down considerably the cost of doing global business and trade.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a small part of China’s OBOR project but for Pakistan, it is likely to be a real game-changer.
The US seems very unhappy with the way these developments are shrinking its global clout, especially in South Asia. And as usual it has started scheming against countries that have come very close to its rival of the day—China— in the meanwhile. It seems especially angry at the seemingly defiant Pakistan which otherwise had always been more than willing to promote and protect the American global and regional interests.
So, in keeping with its changing attitude towards Pakistan a new research paper (A New U.S. Approach to Pakistan: Enforcing Aid Conditions without Cutting Ties) prepared by one of America’s leading think tanks, the Hudson Institute has advised the new Trump administration that the U.S. must ‘stop chasing the mirage of securing change in Pakistan’s strategic direction by giving it additional aid or military equipment. It must be acknowledged that Pakistan is unlikely to change its current policies through inducements alone.’
“The U.S. must also recognize that its efforts over several decades to strengthen Pakistan militarily have only encouraged those elements in Pakistan that hope someday to wrest Kashmir from India through force. Furthermore, the continued provision of military assistance leads many Pakistani leaders to conclude that (1) the U.S. needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs the U.S.; (2) the U.S. is not serious in its expressed concerns about Pakistan’s support for terrorism, lack of democracy, and disregard of human rights; and (3) Pakistan can continue its policy of minimally satisfying the U.S. to keep it on Pakistan’s side.”
The Hudson paper has suggested the following new US approach to Pakistan:
Even though counter terrorism conditions on military aid have been in place for the last seven years, the Obama administration for several years used its national security waiver authority to bypass the legislative conditions. However, Congress over the last two years has included in the National Defence Authorization Act language that prohibits a portion of military reimbursement payments for Pakistan from falling under waiver authority. Thus, for the first time, this past summer the Obama administration withheld $300 million in military reimbursements for Pakistan because of its failure to crack down on the Haqqani network. In addition Congress blocked U.S. Government funding for the transfer of additional F-16 aircraft to Islamabad for the same reason.
It no longer makes sense to waive the counter terrorism conditions on U.S. aid to Pakistan. The U.S. can and must better leverage U.S. military aid to encourage tougher policies against terrorists who operate from within Pakistan. While a grace period may have been merited for Pakistan seven years ago, it would be foolish to keep giving the Pakistanis a pass when it comes to taking action against terrorist groups that are directly undermining U.S. regional interests, not to mention killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Whereas U.S. government agencies were divided seven years ago over the nature and extent of Pakistan’s support to the Afghan Taliban and other terrorist and extremist groups, today no one in the U.S. government disputes that Pakistan provides such support.
The Afghan Taliban safe havens in Quetta and elsewhere should no longer be safe. This does not require a campaign on the scale of that against al- Qaida from 2009-2012, but it should be more than the one-off attack against Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in 2016.
An important benchmark should be for Pakistan to arrest and keep in jail known terrorist leaders. In April 2015, Pakistan released from jail the ringleader of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a decision it should be asked to reverse. Other steps should involve closing down terror training camps and disrupting financing of terror activities. Additionally, the U.S. must demand that Pakistan stem infiltration of militants across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir. Militant infiltration into Indian-controlled territory dropped considerably when former President Pervez Musharraf was in power, especially from2004-2007, demonstrating Pakistan has the ability to turn off the taps when it chooses to do so.
The U.S. must convey its expectation that Pakistan will take steps that end support to the Taliban, such as preventing Taliban leaders from living and meeting in Pakistan and curtailing export of arms, explosives, and ammunition to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The U.S. must also demand deportation of all Afghan Taliban leaders in accordance with Pakistan’s declared policy of returning all Afghan refugees. In addition, Pakistan must invalidate all Pakistani ID cards, passports, and special passes for the Taliban to prevent them from easily passing through military checkpoints. Lastly, Islamabad must seize the financial assets and real estate holdings of all Afghan Taliban and Pakistani terrorist groups that support them.
If Pakistan does not make progress on the above steps, the U.S. should consider compiling a list of Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials, current and former, who are known to have facilitated acts of terrorism — including supporting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network) — and barring them from travel to the U.S.
Washington should remain open to attempts to restart Taliban talks with the Afghan government, but should not plan its strategy around this long-shot scenario. It is likely the Taliban will try to convince the international community that they are willing to negotiate, in order to influence decision-making on troop levels in Afghanistan by the new Trump administration. Although Prime Minister Sharif’s government has helped to bring Taliban leaders to the negotiating table, Pakistan’s intelligence services at times also have played spoiler when it feared that Afghan Taliban interlocutors could not be trusted to represent Pakistan’s interests. There should be consequences for Pakistan if it blocks realistic efforts to begin peace talks.