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Flash Back – Pakistan’s Reaction to Trump South Asia Strategy

Published Sep 06, 2018
Updated Jan 18, 2021

         Speaking at Fort Myer, Arlington, Virginia in the United States on national Prime Time television the US President Donald Trump outlined the South Asia Strategy with a focus on Afghanistan. Relevant Extracts of the same as gleaned from the White House release along with comments are as per succeeding paragraphs.

         The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan.  We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.  Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.  It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. [Earlier the President had said – For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.  The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.  And that could happen].

         In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner.  Our militaries have worked together against common enemies.  The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism.  We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices. 

         But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.  We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.  But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.  No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials.  It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

    Thus it may be necessary to first see what the US President said in his South Asia strategy on 21 August. A relevant summary is as given below-

Quote-

    For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.  The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.  And that could happen

    The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan.  We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.  Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.  It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.

    In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner.  Our militaries have worked together against common enemies.  The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism.  We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices. 

    But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.  We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.  But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.  No partnership can survive a country’s harbouring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials.  It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

Unquote

Pakistan Reaction

The first official reaction by Pakistan came after a meeting of the National Security Council which comprises of the civilian as well as the military brass. A meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) was chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by ministers for defence, foreign affairs, finance, and interior, the national security adviser, services chiefs and heads of intelligence agencies and military operations. The NSC rejected the charge by President Trump and asked the United States to focus on safe havens inside Afghanistan go in for effective border management, return of refugees and reinvigorating the peace process. the There was also resentment against the larger role planned for India as the net security provider in the region which is seen to be in direct conflict with the interests of Pakistan.

     A week later in separate resolutions the Pakistan Senate which acted as a Whole Committee, that is all members came together to speak on the issues related to evolving of a foreign policy to counter the Trump South Asia and Afghan policy as well as the National Assembly come out with direct measures to be taken to counter the Trump strategy. This will possibly be the first time that the Senate and the National Assembly have come together against a major global power even though in the past there have been assaults on Pakistan’s sovereignty such as the raid by US Seals on the hide out of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.  The details of the deliberations of the two legislative institutions are important and are briefly covered herein.

    The Senate on 28 August passed a resolution unanimously making some strong recommendations to the government for a co-ordinated response to US President Donald Trump’s new Afghan policy. The recommendations were made after discussions with the Ministries of Defense and Interior and are to be sent to Pakistans’s Ambassadors across the globe.

    Three immediate steps have been proposed – convey Pakistan’s viewpoint to friendly countries as well as allies of the United States. The US ambassador in Islamabad should be carried a sense of the Senate. A fact sheet on American assistance to Pakistan should be prepared to denote the actual reimbursements received under the Coalition Support Fund and highlight failure to supply military hardware and aid. The fact sheet of the US’s assistance to Pakistan should, “portray the post 9/11 scenario as to how much assistance has been provided for the Coalition Support Funds, which are in fact reimbursements to Pakistan,” as reported by the Dawn News that claimed to have a copy of the Senate Report. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua has called for a meeting of Pakistan’s from Sept 5 to 7  for evolving a strategy after the announcement of the new US policy on South Asia.

    On the security front no territory should be allowed to be used against a neighbouring state with focus on border management and mutually acceptable verification mechanism to look into allegations of cross-border violations that emanate from both Kabul and Islamabad. The Senate also wanted that the government effectively highlight Indian interference in Pakistan.

    The National Assembly (NA) on 30 August passed a resolution rejecting the “hostile and threatening” statements made by US President Donald J. Trump and Gen John W. Nicholson — the top US commander in Afghanistan. The resolution rejected Gen Nicolson’s claims regarding the existence of the Taliban shura in Peshawar and Quetta. The NA disapproved of the “unacceptable targeting of Pakistan” by Trump in his speech while he announced Washington’s new South Asia policy. The resolution rejecting that billions of US dollars in aid have been spent on Pakistan highlighted that Pakistan’s economy had suffered a loss of more than $123 billion. The lower house condemned Washington’s call for increased Indian involvement in Afghanistan due to “[India’s] known support to terrorists and destabilising policies in the region”.

    The National Assembly urged the Government of Pakistan to ‘consider’ the following steps as per the Dawn News –

•    Postponement diplomatic visits between Washington and Islamabad

•    Suspension of cooperation with the US, specifically the provision of ground and air lines of communication through Pakistan

•    Draw and inform the US of a blueprint for the dignified return of all Afghan refugees

•    Formulate economic policies to deal with any situation arising out of the absence of US assistance

•    Commence a diplomatic initiative, particularly in friendly countries in the region, to inform them of Pakistan’s counter terrorism strategy and successes and the repercussions in the region of failed US policies while reiterating Pakistan’s determination to strengthen control on borders with Afghanistan and demand cooperation and similar action from Afghanistan and ISAF.