Pak-US ‘trust deficit’ ties


Relations between Pakistan and the United States are facing tremendous challenges and can be summarised in two words ‘trust deficit’ relations. A recent report in the New York Times suggests that the Trump administration is considering withholding aid worth $255 million meant for Pakistan. The step is directed at pressuring Pakistan to forego its ties with the Taliban linked Haqqani network. According to the NYT report, the US believes Pakistan is making its defiance known by not allowing the US to interrogate a Haqqani network operative who was captured in October, during the Pakistan Army’s operation to rescue American-Canadian citizens Caitlin Coleman and Joshua Boyle. The US also believes that the Pakistan Army captured one of their abductors. Islamabad has not acknowledged the existence of this individual, but the US insists that he is in Pakistan’s custody.
This is just the latest dip in bilateral relations between the two countries since President Donald Trump announced his plans for Afghanistan and South Asia, which included a greater role in Afghanistan for Pakistan’s archrival India.The tough line taken by Trump administration along with Pakistan’s closer relations and increasing economic dependence on China, have sent Pak-US relations in a downward spiral. On December 22, US Vice President Mike Pence announced that Pakistan ‘had been put on notice’ regarding its continual support to certain anti-US and Afghan government militant groups. The Pakistani establishment replied to this statement on December 28. DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor stated that “Pakistan had done enough and it was time for Afghanistan and the US to do more for Pakistan”. The war in Afghanistan is complicated by the fact that the US and regional players such as Pakistan are not on the same page. Though Pakistan and the United States are ‘allies’ in theory, the truth is that there geopolitical goals are different. Despite the lack of convergence, both parties remain dependent on each other. The US can’t get its supplies into Afghanistan without the assistance of Pakistan and Pakistan needs US aid especially in the defence sector.
The US could still play the role of a facilitator of peace talks between Pakistan and India. Pakistan’s anxieties about the Western border need to be addressed. In fact, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan share the same views on terrorism especially the rise of ISIS in the region. But they have been blaming each other and the US has now joined in the Indian chorus about Pakistan Yet, Pakistan must also review its policies on the support provided to non-state actors whether they are Kashmir-centric jihadist groups or sections of Afghan Taliban. It is in Pakistan’s own interest. For now, our Foreign Office and the military high command need to repair the bilateral relationship. It is a long-standing relationship and will remain important despite the Chinese embrace.
Sadly the US President Donald Trump in his first statement on the eve of New Year made Pakistan target. After recent reports that the Donald Trump administration was considering cutting off aid to Pakistan, US President Donald Trump slammed the country, saying that the US had “foolishly” given Pakistan $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years. Trump said that the US had only gotten “lies” and “deceit” in return for the monetary aid it had provided. Trump also said that US operations in Afghanistan were being hindered by the “safe haven” that Pakistan was providing to terrorists. The relations between the two countries soured after the US president’s speech but went further down the drain after US officials, including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the official visit to Pakistan, repeated Trump’s “do more” demand. Tillerson had also acknowledged that US ties with Pakistan have “really deteriorated” in the last decade, saying that he had conveyed to Pakistan that its policy of terror safe havens could well backfire.