Opinion: US-Pakistan relations at a historic low

Written By: Sudeep Kumar
Shanghai, China Updated: Aug 24, 2018, 02:00 PM(IST)

File photo of Imran Khan. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The recent reduction in US defence aid from $1 billion to $150 million annually and suspension of a decades-old military training program for Pakistani officials at US institutions signals this fact that Pakistan is already into Chinese orbit.   

The US-Pakistan bilateral relations are witnessing a historic low and, the main reasons include the US-China trade war, Pakistan's proximity to China, Pakistani official policy of safe haven to terror groups in Pakistan, the US’s direct engagement with Taliban in Afghanistan, and reopening of talks with Uzbekistan for providing land access to Afghanistan. 
 
Washington has given more than $33 billion aid to Pakistan, while International Monetary Funds (IMF) financed as many as 14 programmes since 1980. But the recent reduction in US defence aid from $1 billion to $150 million annually and suspension of a decades-old military training programme for Pakistani officials at US institutions signals this fact that Pakistan is already into Chinese orbit.   

Any further infusion of IMF loans to Pakistani economy would be actually the bailout of Chinese investments under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). As a matter of facts, IMF has bailed out five times in the past and the largest bailout i.e. $6.7 billion was in 2013. Furthermore, Pakistan has been put on the grey list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and currently facing heat to avoid black-listing in next FATF meeting  scheduled in October, 2018, if fails to act against anti-terror financing.   

In these contexts, the newly elected coalition government looks weak, where Imran Khan as a puppet of army does not exercise any significant control over the foreign ministry, and has been given the task to fix already sinking Pakistani economy.   

Certainly, the Pakistani army is the real winner in this election, when European Union observers criticised the ground of lack of equality and mentioned conditions for fair elections in Pakistan worsened since the last vote in 2013. In fact, the new cabinet ministers in the Imran Khan led government proves this point quite significantly, when nine out of fifteen ministers, and three out of five advisers were senior officials in the General Pervez Musharraf led-army regime (1999-2007). Imran Khan-led coalition government has been given the task to fix the economy in order to avoid any sorts of international criticism and secure more international aid soon.   

However, this civilian government, like earlier ones, does highlights that the three crucial moments usually start with ‘hope and watershed moment’, then move to ‘benefit of doubt moment’ for using pro-army narratives and slogans as a strategic tool to buy more time from International financial institutions, till the time they realise it’s a bit ‘unusual moment’. 

India waited long for this moment in the US-Pakistan bilateral relations. Perhaps, this is one of the best times in modern history, when New Delhi can pull the best bargain out of the US-China trade war on the one side, and Russia-China strategic rivalry in Central Asia on the other. However, India should be careful to not loose its strategic autonomy by taking the side of any one state. 

After all, national interests are paramount and New Delhi needs to maintain this pace for economic development and military modernisation for a decade at least.  

 (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

 

 

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