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September 5, 2017

US needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs US: RUSI

Top Story

September 5, 2017

LONDON: A leading British defence think-tank has said that American President Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of Pakistan’s role in America and “do more” demand has helped to unite Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership in rallying around each other against bullish threats and hostility by the current US administration.

The Royal United Studies Institute (RUSI) said in a report on Pakistan on Monday that America has been criticising Pakistan for a long time and harshly – but “what is different, however, is the defiant Pakistani response – the speech has united the erstwhile divisive nature of military and civilian cohesion in Pakistan”.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and the National Assembly come together in saying that “time was up for the US, its threats and financial blackmail”.

The RUSI analysis noted that it is famously said that in order to understand Pakistan, one needs to know three ‘As’: Allah; America and the Army but “while Allah and the army are still central to Pakistan, it can be argued that America’s importance is fading fast”.

The report on Pakistan was researched by the International Security Department of RUSI and authored by Kamal Alam, RUSI’s scholar on Pakistan: “US President Donald Trump’s scathing speech last month singling out Pakistan for giving safe haven to what he called ‘agents of chaos, violence, and terror’ came as no surprise in Islamabad, which has become accustomed to being made the scapegoat for American failures in neighbouring Afghanistan. Trump is not unique in his criticism of Pakistan; he follows a long line of American officials who have singled out Pakistani support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Since the speech, Trump also appears to have threatened Pakistan, saying it will get financial aid only after it has fulfilled US demands regarding the war in Afghanistan.

“Normally, when the US has accused Pakistan of being the major stumbling block towards achieving peace in the region, Islamabad has panicked and a flurry of diplomatic activity has followed to appease American anger and save the country from the coming wrath of sanctions, a block on weapons’ sales or worse.

“This time, however, there seems to be a fundamental switch in Pakistan’s response; rather than grovel to US or explain its actions, Pakistan has cancelled two visits by American delegations to Islamabad.

“Furthermore, it was the turn of US diplomats to engage in the game of seeking appointments with Pakistani officials and to try to explain that Pakistan is still a vital ally of the US. David Hale, the American ambassador to Pakistan, went out of his way since Trump’s tirade to meet Bajwa and National Security Adviser Lieutenant General Nasser Khan Janjua.”

The RUSI analysis said that Pakistan has changed, its now “much more confident” due to a massive increase in security led by the army and a revived economy.“The successful military operation Zarb-e-Azb has cut the number of terrorist attacks in the country and attracted global praise led by Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders, Commander of Britain’s Field Army, who said in May that the army had achieved in Waziristan what the British failed to do in more than 200 years.

“Britain’s Chief of General Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, went as far as to say that former Pakistan Army chief Raheel Sharif was his mentor. Following on from a Pakistan Army officer becoming the first non-Westerner to train cadets at the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhrust, the Germans and Czech have also asked for Pakistani officers to train their cadets,” the report said.

“It said that China’s increased cooperation with Pakistan has helped Pakistan gain confidence and ‘has eclipsed anything America has had to offer in terms of military and economic assistance’, and it’s in this background that General Bajwa said Pakistan ‘did not need American financial assistance, but instead required its respect or trust’.

The RUSI said that this statement is a significant departure from Pakistan’s stance, given the reliance of Pakistan on US military equipment since 1947.“It noted that the creation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, followed by joint military production, has put Pakistan’s standing firmly on the rise. This has been indirectly acknowledged by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who, on his last visit to Pakistan, in November 2016, also suggested that UK must be involved in this project. For the first time in its history, Pakistan has also purchased attack helicopters from Russia, which has always been seen as Islamabad’s enemy.”

The RUSI report concluded: “So, the only significant development to emerge from Trump’s public rebuke to Pakistan may well be Washington’s discovery that it needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs the Americans.”