U.S Scraps Military Aid to Pakistan
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TOPIC: General Studies 2
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Why did U.S scrap $300 million in military aid to Pakistan?
Reason: Islamabad’s lack of ‘decisive actions’ in support of American strategy in the region i.e., its perceived failure to take decisive action against terrorists and militants – including stabilising Afghanistan and according geo-political primacy to India.
US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups, which attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries. The White House believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban for ideological reasons, but also to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
It also believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.
What does U.S want to achieve – The South Asia Strategy
The administration’s “South Asia Strategy” as enunciated by President Trump encompasses Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the Central Asian nations and parts of Southeast Asia, and is aimed at strengthening American security by –
- Bringing peace to Afghanistan with India’s help, and
- Further developing US strategic partnership with India.
Pakistan, which has long positioned itself as an equal to India with claims of longer and closer ties to Washington, as both resented and resisted this.
Bad news for Pakistan
By announcing that aid would be “reprogrammed”, the administration has left open the possibility that it could be reconstituted if Pakistan fell in line with U.S objectives, while signaling it is ready with even harsher steps if Islamabad remained defiant –
- Cutting off the international financial assistance
- Pakistan’s frequent forays for support at IMF and the World Bank
The Trump administration has also been quietly cutting scores of Pakistani officers from coveted training and educational programmes that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade.
What are the possible steps that Pakistan can take?
Pakistan may start looking to other countries for support, particularly its longtime ally China. Pakistan’s confidence that it has an alternative in China has grown, with Beijing’s pledge of more than $100 billion in loans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor infrastructure, power projects, and so on.
Can Beijing deliver Pakistan from economic troubles?
If America is to follow this up by cutting off World Bank and IMF assistance, Pakistan’s economy can go into a tail spin. China can mitigate the effect only partially. With low oil prices, the Arabs are also not of much help.
Does it mean anything to India?
By degrading Pakistani military capability, the US is indirectly helping India. Pakistan is decisively in the Chinese camp and the US needs India to balance China in Asia. Bolstering India’s conventional military capability, against China, which is likely, is in America’s strategic interest.
This year, with American backing, India has become a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime as well as the Wassenaar Arrangement that controls dual use technology.
With technology curbs no longer in operation, India can produce high tech weapons on its own. Even with Chinese help, Pakistan cannot match this. China is not a member of these regimes and is miles behind the US in military technology.
All in all, this is a win win for India, but…
It is particularly important that the U.S. follow through on its ultimatums in this respect. However, all American statements so far focus on Pakistan’s support to terror groups that threaten Afghanistan, and more particularly, the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Therefore, action against the groups that threaten India is unlikely to be an immediate priority.
New Delhi must also be mindful of the impact of a more fractured U.S.-Pakistan relationship on regional security. Above all, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, like that between India and the U.S. and India and Pakistan, is a long-standing bilateral one. While welcoming all moves to address India’s core concerns on terror, New Delhi must ensure it doesn’t get ensnared or triangulated in the equation between Washington and Islamabad.
Despite the provocations, the US does not want to completely rupture its relationship with Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment already runs high. Washington’s footprint in Afghanistan is much smaller than it was at the height of the war, but it needs access to Pakistan’s supply lines and airspace. Pakistan is still believed to have the strongest influence over the Taliban, making its co-operation necessary for peace talks.
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