First-ever 2+2 meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers of the US and India held on the heels of the Trump administration’s withholding of USD 300 million to Pakistan. Washington has made its intent clear in how and why it is treating Pakistan the way it is doing. US National Security Adviser John Bolton told a think tank in Washington that the decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan was not taken lightly as the Trump administration was fully aware of the consequences of taking such an action against a nuclear weapons state…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Unsurprisingly, Pakistan is seething at a specific mention of its role in fomenting and condoning terrorism on its soil and exporting it to neighbouring Afghanistan made at the end of the 2+2 New Delhi Dialogue. Its anger is manifold since the first-ever 2+2 meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers of the US and India came on the heels of the Trump administration’s withholding of USD 300 million that meant rejection of its self-righteous plea that it has always fought terrorism.
Islamabad blames, not itself, but the US as army-backed Prime Minister Imran Khan says: “Pakistan will never again fight other’s war.”
That assertion came on the eve of the brief visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the US Chief of Staff, Gen. Dunford. This meant Pakistan was ready for the axing of funds – never mind that it badly needs them.
Pompeo did not snap back and insisted that the US would continue to engage with Pakistan. That means, funds or no funds, the US will not give up the asking Pakistan to “do more.”
Reports from Washington are that he wanted to meet Khan one-to-one although the latter had chaired a meeting of official from both sides. It can be safely assumed that Pompeo wanted to give a piece of American mind to the yet-settling Khan, who remains green behind his ears when it comes to conducting diplomacy.
The US did not relish the cheap diplomatic gambit of Pakistan denying that Trump had made any mention of the need to fight terrorism when the latter telephoned Khan. Islamabad piped down only after Washington reiterated what was said by Trump and threatened to make public the recording.
By all indications, Pakistan has lost out and the US is miffed at the manner in which it conducts its holier-than-thou diplomacy, denying the basics. So it reiterated the need for Pakistan to fight the Haqqani network in particular.
There was the proverbial salt on the Pakistani wounds when the US duo stayed longer in New Delhi and engaged in 2+2 and consolidated a growing defence partnership. A joint statement in New Delhi referred to Pakistan’s role and the need to curb terrorism – something which is music to the Indian ears.
Now, it is Pakistan’s turn to be miffed and say that Indians and Americans had not followed what its Foreign Office called “diplomatic norms.” Islamabad can only blame itself for this.
Washington has made its intent clear in how and why it is treating Pakistan the way it is doing. US National Security Adviser John Bolton told a think tank in Washington that the decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan was not taken lightly as the Trump administration was fully aware of the consequences of taking such an action against a nuclear weapons state.
Bolton also said that the US wanted Pakistan to cooperate fully in war against terrorism as “it’s a matter of extraordinary importance” to America.
“It was before my time, but the Trump administration did not take the decision to cancel a substantial part of the military aid package to Pakistan lightly,” he said.
In an oblique reference to India, Bolton said that terrorism was “a serious threat to the entire subcontinent” but Pakistan needed to act against terrorists because it’s also a threat to its own existence.
“It was done knowing full well that Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state, and the risk that the government could fall into the hands of terrorists that would get control of those nuclear weapons was particularly serious.”
The reference to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the risks involved in their falling into the hands of the militants are significant. Washington has not said it explicitly. But it would be safe to think that it had studied closely Imran Khan’s past record as an anti-American sympathizer of the militants and militancy.
Bolton said Secretary Pompeo wanted to convey the message that “we hoped and expected that Pakistan would cooperate fully in the war against terrorism, which they had committed to do.” Pompeo left the door open to Islamabad in that he said that even at this stage, it was possible to ‘reset’ the US-Pak relations.
Prior to the Pompeo-Dunford visit, Pakistan did try to send out a signal to the US with the news of the passing away of Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the Haqqani network. But it gave the game away when The Daily Times of Lahore reported the news under Islamabad dateline after confirming with the local sources and said in its editorial: “The death of Jalaluddin Haqqani, experts believe, will have little bearing on the militant network that bears his name. In much the same way that the Afghan Taliban lives on without Mullah Omar and Al Qaeda has picked up the pieces post-Bin Laden.”
Then, fretting over the fall-out of where Haqqani could have died, it said: “At the time of writing there are as yet no confirmed reports as to which side of the Af-Pak border he breathed his last. If it turns out that it was over here, this will inevitably mean some tough questions for new premier Imran Khan when the top US diplomat swings by today. The suspected presence of the Haqqani Network (HN) on Pakistani soil has long been a sticking point in the bilateral relationship.”
Note the triumphant dismissal of the impact of father Haqqani’s demise when the son is surging ahead across Afghanistan. The US and the world know that this is not even an eyewash in that Haqqani’s son Sirajuddin is in effective charge of the notorious Network that is in league with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and is the Number Two man of the Taliban and the Al Qaida.
The Haqqani network remains in control of the situation in Afghanistan that is increasingly facing assaults and covers huge swathes of territory.
Pakistan is blasé about its role in fomenting terrorism in Afghanistan and blames the Americans for forcing it into the “war on terror”. But there is not a word about the benefits this war yielded in terms of USD 33 billion. Indeed, the self-righteous and angry denunciation of the US for asking “do more” is combined with “ask more” hoping the Americans will at some stage relent, partially if not fully, since they need Pakistan’s logistics to stay on or extricate themselves from Afghanistan.