United States President, Donald Trump has disclosed that he will withhold aid to Pakistan. In this piece, KINGSLEY OPURUM examines how US threat has strengthened Pakistan’s diplomatic ties with China, Russia and Turkey
Donald Trump opened the New Year by threatening to withhold aid to Pakistan, a longtime US ally, accusing Islamabad of “giving us nothing but lies and deceit” and “thinking of our leaders as fools”.
The US President used his first tweet of 2018 to single out the south Asian powerhouse and accused Islamabad of harbouring terrorists.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Trump wrote.
Against the backdrop of this development, China, Russia and Turkey have swiftly assured Pakistan of full their support in all respects.
What provoked Trump to single out Pakistan for such threat was unclear. But the Trump administration said last year that it was delaying $255m in military aid to Islamabad as part of a new Afghanistan strategy.
Pakistani government has always complained that its own efforts has been unappreciated by Washington for too long. Online news quoted this as saying “[Pakistan] as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16yrs, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust,” the country’s Minister of Defence said in a tweet. “They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis,” the ministry added.
Analysts are of the opinion that US grave mistake is to have strained bilateral relations with Pakistan, which means throwing an important partner further into the hands of a rising China, which has courted Islamabad through investments in infrastructure projects and other forms of aid.
These analysts also believe that if Trump to abruptly cut off aid to Pakistan, Beijing won’t hesitate to quickly step in to fill the gap.
There were reported attempts last year by US to sanction Islamabad, and China and Russia have reportedly assured Pakistan at the diplomatic level that they will veto any attempts from the US to place economic sanctions on Pakistan through the United Nations.
The unequivocal support from Beijing and Moscow, two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, came amid Washington’s mounting pressure against Islamabad.
In his last year speech, Trump warned Islamabad that it had “much to lose” by continuing to provide “safe havens” to militants. Since then, US-Pakistan relations have been shaken by political whirlwinds that prompted the South Asian nation to seek closer ties with China and Russia, which were among the first to defend Islamabad against Trump’s Afghan strategy.
As part of that strategy, the Trump administration decided it would not give Pakistan access to $225 million in military assistance until it stops harboring Haqqani Network militants on its soil, a claim Islamabad vehemently denies. Washington also expects Islamabad to step up its efforts in the fight against terrorism in the region and hinted that it would impose sanctions against Pakistani officials who are allegedly connected to militants.
The list of targeted Pakistani officials is yet undisclosed, but Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has warned the US against imposing sanctions. He said in an interview with Reuters that the sanctions would only “degrade our effort” and would also “hurt the US effort” in waging the war against terror.
Immediately after President Trump unveiled his Afghan strategy, Russia, China, Turkey and Iran rallied their support for Pakistan’s sacrifice in the war on terrorism.
Pundits believe that what comes as the most prominent victory for the Pakistani government is that Islamabad has drawn the support of two veto-wielding nations in the UN: Beijing and Moscow.
Also, they are of the view that since these two partners have reportedly pledged to veto any US moves to slap Pakistan with sanctions, Trump-led government’s effort may hit a brick wall.
It is believed that Trump’s plan to suspend US aid to Pakistan will have a heavy toll on US war against terrorism and its foreign policy, as Pakistan has provided a major help in US anti-terror war especially in the middle-east.
Pakistan has criticized Washington for failing to acknowledge its sacrifices in the war on terror, which has claimed the lives of nearly 22,000 Pakistani civilians and killed more than 6,800 Pakistan’s soldiers since 2003.
In a bid to increase its allies, Islamabad is also reportedly set to approach key Western powers, such as France and the United Kingdom. Pakistan also reportedly plans to hold talks with France and Britain to possibly ask them to oppose the US policy of putting diplomatic and economic pressure on it.
Again, Turkey and Pakistan have voiced similar views on the Afghan crisis, with Turkey reiterating that it opposes a military solution to the Afghan war, which Trump’s strategy calls for. The two allies have agreed that they will continue to work together for peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Recently, Moscow-based political analyst Andrew Korybko told ValueWalk that if Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkey form a bloc, it would not only be a game-changer strategy to achieve peace in Afghanistan but also help “revolutionize” Eurasian geopolitics in general.
A media report has it that China views Pakistan, its all-weather ally, as a key pillar of stability, peace and prosperity in the region. Beijing is investing at least $54 billion into its joint project with its South Asian ally, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. CPEC is a vital part of its mammoth One Belt, One Road Initiative.
A stable and peaceful Pakistan is reportedly essential to China’s security and national interests, as Beijing places great importance on the project. The economic corridor links China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port through a network of rail and road projects.
As stability in Afghanistan translates to peace in Pakistan, China is prepared to protect Pakistan’s goals and counterterrorism measures at the diplomatic level. By being involved in resolving the Afghan crisis, Beijing also enhances its influence in security affairs in Central and South Asia.
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