ISLAMABAD: The final decision taken by the United States to cancel $300 million “in aid” to Pakistan that had been suspended over alleged failure to take decisive action against militants has the clear potential of undermining the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pakistan on September 4.
Just three days before Pompeo, accompanied by Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, hold talks with Pakistan new leadership on “action against common foes and terrorists” flies into Pakistan, the announcement to cancel the “aid” has been made. Obviously, it is aimed at this sojourn and a way to mount pressure on Pakistan to accept the American terms. Pakistan has always denied any militants are operating from its soil.
International relations expert Senator Mushahid Hussain said in a tweet that the American stoppage of $300 million Coalition Support Funds (CSF) undermines Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad and is a sop to India as New Delhi seeks to solidify Indo-US front against Pakistan’s best friend, China; earlier, $500 million CSF was stopped; all this is money owed to Pakistan by US and is not aid.
When contacted, former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri told The News that the American decision was symptomatic of Trump administration’s approach and policy. “If it was meant to arm-twist, browbeat and send a message to Pakistan, it is a very crude way.”
He said the present administration has adopted similar strategies about Nato, Nafta with Canada, Far East etc. Maximum sanctions have been imposed on Iran and Russia, he said adding that whether the American decision was coincidental or intended, it could not succeed because both the US and Pakistan have equal interests in having peace in Afghanistan.
Kasuri said while the Trump administration was building a strategic partnership with India, its relationship with Pakistan was “transactional”, which could be polite. People in Pakistan, he said, will not like this arm-twisting, and added that the decision has come at a time when Pakistan is faced with dire financial crises.
“The American message to Pakistan is: don’t rely on us,” the former foreign minister said. “There is convergence and mutuality of interests of Pakistan and the US as both the countries want stability and peace in Afghanistan. The American move would be counter-productive because it is not possible to intimidate Pakistan.”
The CSF funds were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by President Trump at the start of the year, when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit.”US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorise $300 million in CSF funds through this summer--if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents. Mattis chose not to.
“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner was reported as having said.
As per the tradition followed over the past few years, Pompeo and General Joseph Dunford will call on the prime minister and the top military leadership during their visit, which will be the first high-level interaction after the new government has assumed office in Pakistan.
In his interaction with a group of media men, Imran Khan has stated that his government wants to have normal relations with Washington. In a latest tweet, President Trump said: We shouldn't have to buy our friends with bad Trade Deals and Free Military Protections!