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Pentagon cancelled $300 million in aid to Pakistan Saturday for not acting decisively against terrorism. President Donald Trump had accused Pakistan of rewarding the US with “deceit and lies”.

Critics, however, argue that the US is taking advantage of Pakistan’s vulnerable economy.

ThePrint asks – US denies Pakistan aid: Pressure to tackle militancy or hitting at a vulnerable economy?

Trump scapegoating Pakistan for failure of Afghan policy

Salman Bashir
Former diplomat, Pakistan

US military’s announcement of termination of $300 million security assistance to Pakistan is untimely and unfortunate. The amount being denied was a reimbursement from the Coalition Support Fund, which actually is ‘post’ pay for the money already expended by Pakistan in the joint campaign against militancy and terror in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has for almost 18 years provided logistic supply lines over its territory to the US/NATO forces operating in Afghanistan. It also provided military and air support bases to the US. All of this was cost-free. The value of the relationship, from Pakistan’s point of view, was not gauged in cents and dimes but in terms of realising shared goals.

Real interests still bind Pakistan and the US especially where stability and peace in Afghanistan are concerned. Symbolism is important and the aid cut-off is meant to show annoyance with Pakistan for the now evident failings of the US military venture in Afghanistan.

Now, even more than before, the US needs the support of Pakistan and other neighbours to salvage hope for durable peace in Afghanistan. It is evident that President Trump’s Afghanistan strategy has not delivered. The aid cut-off is seen as scapegoating Pakistan for the failure of this policy. Yet, venting frustration is not policy.

Both Pakistan and the US have real interests at stake in Afghanistan. The US military needs to get out of the binary of victory or defeat and work on the paradigm of ‘victory of peace’ in Afghanistan or a ‘win-win’, which is a very Chinese term. But the way forward is to move beyond recrimination and false notions to salvage hope for the poor Afghans who have suffered immensely for 40 years from games of global realpolitik.

Also read: Friend China is torturing Muslims, but Islamic Republic Pakistan is quiet. Here’s why

US has played games with itself & Pakistan on the terror issue

Kanwal Sibal
Former diplomat, India

Not too much importance should be attached to the US’ reduction of aid to Pakistan. US and Pakistan have gone through such pressure phases before without any durable change in Pakistan’s policies on terrorism.

For years, Pakistan’s economy has been in trouble but it has been bailed out by the IMF or its benefactors in the Gulf countries, with the US and Saudi Arabia often finding strategic convergence on preventing Pakistan from being seriously destabilised.

In any case, the US aid to Pakistan has been declining for some time and Pakistan has learnt to live with it. With China stepping up its already deep strategic partnership with Pakistan and planning to invest heavily within the ambit of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), any reduction of the US aid is more than compensated by China’s increased economic involvement.

Chinese investment in the power sector is already easing Pakistan’s grave energy shortages. Pakistan is nonetheless facing a serious financial problem and sorely needs a financial package for debt servicing that has become due. It might have to approach the IMF and that is where the US becomes a critical factor.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has already warned that the US will ensure that IMF funds are not used to service the Chinese debt. If the IMF option is taken, Pakistan will have to fully divulge the details of the CPEC projects and that would raise a serious problem for Islamabad owing to the secrecy shrouding the issue.

Pakistan remains in denial about its links to terrorism and, in in Trump’s words, will continue to be duplicitous. If Washington was serious about Pakistan’s complicity with terror, it would apply even a watered down version of the draconian sanctions that it has imposed on Iran and Russia. Unfortunately, America has played games with itself and with Pakistan on the terrorism issue long enough to doubt the sincerity of both sides in wanting to cure this malady afflicting our region.

To expect money from US against war on terror is mercenary behaviour

Sushant Sareen
Fellow, Observer Research Foundation

The US denying Pakistan aid aims at both turning up the pressure to curb militancy and hitting at an economically vulnerable country. It wouldn’t make sense to deny money if there was no economic vulnerability.

Unlike what Pakistan is claiming, we need to be clear that it was aid and not money that was due to them. The US devised this package to help reimburse their allies in their “war on terror”. But, if you’re an ally, you should foot your own bill. To expect money in return is behaving like a mercenary.

Clearly, the US has reached the conclusion that Pakistan is not playing an honest game. They are sending a very strong signal that they will not tolerate Pakistan’s stance anymore.

Now whether this will be enough to make Pakistan toe the line is still in the realm of speculation. But this aid is not all that America has to leverage over Pakistan. Even if Pakistan approaches the IMF, which is a possibility, the US can use its veto to deny them the money.

If this happens, Pakistan may retaliate. The US has to factor in that its communication routes to Afghanistan pass through Pakistan. The Iranian route is out, and the northern route is not an option. Will Pakistan go down that road and shut communication? No one knows.

There are clear indications that the US patience has run out. Someone will need to foot Pakistan’s bills. Will it be China? We will have to wait and see.

Also read: Imran Khan’s govt in Pakistan prefers denying terrorism than learning lessons from 9/11

US cancelled Pakistan aid in hope that it can woo New Delhi 

Jyoti Malhotra
Editor, National & Strategic Affairs

The US has cancelled $300 million in security-related aid to Pakistan in the hope that it can woo Delhi into becoming a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region – read, China – but it is unlikely that India will be impressed.

And if the US has made this move on the eve of the 2+2 foreign and defence-level talks with India taking place in Delhi on 6 September hoping that it can persuade Delhi not to buy the Russian S-400 missile systems, then it can rest assured that India isn’t going to agree.

The trouble is that both Donald Trump and Narendra Modi like to have their way. Trump wants Modi to only buy American defence equipment because only that will be proof of friendship. But with Trump being disdainful of the Indian prime minister, mimicking his accent and treating him like “just another Asian leader”, Modi’s stakes simply aren’t high enough.

If this doesn’t sound like a failing romance, then nothing does. India and the US were supposed to ride off into the sunset together after they signed the nuclear deal. But personality issues between Trump and Modi have come in the way. Defence secretary Jim Mattis seems like a much better partner, especially since he has led the charge that India must get a waiver from US sanctions that will be applied on all countries that deal with Russia.

India must gently convince Mattis to tell Trump that he should get off that particular high horse. Promises to buy American defence goodies will help. Trump should come to India, even if it isn’t for Republic Day celebrations.

Both India and the US must realise that they cannot take on the Chinese dragon separately. The US is still the most powerful country in the world, but its 17-year-long war in Afghanistan has made it a wounded superpower. Together, both countries have a much better chance of taking on China. In the long run, the S-400 Russian missile is only a missile. The strategic relationship between India and the US has to be much stronger than just a piece of equipment.

Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj, journalist at ThePrint.

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