Dr Muhammad Khan
While President Donald Trump’s administration is in the process of reviewing its policies towards South Asia and particularly India and Pakistan, on July 14, 2017, US House of Representatives has passed a $621.5 billion defence policy bill for year 2018. Whereas, the bill proposed advance defence cooperation with India, it has imposed tougher conditions for US cooperation with Pakistan. For Pakistan, three interrelated legislative amendments were passed for imposition of further tough conditions for reimbursement of defence funding to Pakistan, which otherwise have been reduced to minimum over the years. These legislative amendments in the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA)-2018, requires the secretary of defence to certify three conditions prior to making any reimbursement to Pakistan.
The conditions include; ‘taking demonstrable steps to support counterterrorism operations, disrupting cross-border attacks and countering the threat of improvised explosive devices.’ Two anti-Pakistan US Lawmakers; Dana Rohrabacher and Ted Poe proposed these amendments, two by former and one by the later Congressman. According to these amendments, Pakistan can get an amount of $400 million, total proposed amount of reimbursement, during the period beginning on October 1, 2017, and ending on December 31, 2018, if US Secretary of Defence certifies that, “Pakistan continues to conduct military operations against the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan.” Besides, he (Defence Secretary) will have to ‘certify that Pakistan is demonstrating commitment to preventing the Haqqani network from using North Waziristan as a safe haven, and is actively coordinating with the govt of Afghanistan to restrict movement of militants, including Haqqani Network, along the Pak-Afghan border.
On the other hand, through another amendment, proposed by Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera, advance defence cooperation has been sought between United States and India. Ami Bera said, “Cooperation between the US and India enhances our own defence and our ability to meet the evolving security challenges of the 21st century.” Besides, the maxim of US as world’s oldest democracy and India as world’s largest democracy were also used during the passage of India specific bill, emphasizing both to cooperate on critical issues like; ‘common security challenges, the role of partners and allies, and areas for collaboration in science and technology.’
Cara Abercrombie, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia, said about the passage of India specific amendment that, “… [As] we look at the global order, and when we look at the evolving security environment within Asia, India’s rise and role [is] evolving, [and] we see the United States and India increasingly viewing the region in the same way, and our interests are very much aligned. This is all rooted in when we look at the region and [what] we share. We have the same [aerial] security interests, the same counter-proliferation, counter-piracy, and counter-terrorism [interests].”
Prior to passage of these pro-India and Anti-Pakistan amendments by US House of Representatives, on July 6, 2017, the former Pakistani Ambassador to US, Mr Hussain Haqqani, published an article in, ‘The New York Times’ empahsising US Administration to get tougher on Pakistan. The article entitled as, ‘To Win Afghanistan, Get Tough on Pakistan’ seems to have provided necessary basis for the passage of amendments in US (NDAA)-2018, bill, passed a week after this article. In this article, Hussain Haqqani blamed Pakistan of deceiving US. The crux of his article is that, during the entire period of Pak-US alliance, Pakistani interest “has been more about securing weapons, economic aid and diplomatic support in its confrontation with India.” Just imagine the level of accusations against his own country by a Pakistani? In this article and through many other write-ups, Hussain Haqqani indeed, built a case against Pakistan, asking Trump Administration to take alternatives and tough steps against Pakistan.
Sequel to this article, there was a debate in Washington about Pak-US relationship. Among others view points, Hussain Haqqani above mentioned article served as foundation for this debate too. The participants of this debate included; Pakistani Amabssador to US, Mr Aizaz Chaudhary, Daniel Markey of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Bennett Seftel of the Cipher Brief, Washington. The debate primarily focused on complexity of Pak-US relationship with particular emphasises on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan viz-a-viz Indian role in Afghanistan.
As it should have been, Ambassador Aizaz Ch tried to clarify the Pakistani position on Afghanistan and positive role, Pakistan can play for bringing peace and stability in that country. Amb Ch was critical to the Indian role in Afghanistan, nevertheless, Mr Haqqani, ‘rejected Pakistan’s concerns about the Indian presence in Afghanistan as “imaginary fears” and urged Washington “not to let Pakistan link its longstanding support for hard-line Pashtun Islamists in Afghanistan to its disputes with India”. Among others non-Pakistanis, there were mix views about the Pakistani approach towards US, India and Afghanistan.
Pakistan has survived the worst US and international sanctions, following its nuclear explosions in May 1998. The meagre amount of $400 million for the defence reimbursement hardly matters for Pakistani defence and national security. Pakistan has highly professional military with indigenous defence production in almost all fields including strategic one. US may allot this $400 million to India, its new strategic partner in South Asia, since it has attached strings and conditions for its release.
However, Pakistani position is absolutely clears that, it does not support any terrorist network including Haqanis. Nevertheless, a common Pakistan is highly critical over the role of HussainHaqqani and those appointed him Pakistani Ambassador in US. Should his associates have a role in the future politics of Pakistan?
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.
Dr Muhammad Khan