US aid to Pakistan has boomeranged

Despite US largesse, Pakistan, far from addressing terrorism, has become the breeding ground for it.

It was at the height of the global war on terror that President Bush in 2004 designated Pakistan as a major non-Nato ally (MNNA). Only about a dozen countries have been so designated by the US since 1989 when this phrase was coined.

The US accords the designation of MNNA on close allies – not members of the NATO, but those having strategic working relations with the US Armed Forces. The MNNA status is of considerable importance as it paves the way for countries to receive critical benefits from the US in the areas of foreign aid and defence cooperation.

Accordingly, an MNNA country is eligible for priority delivery of defence material, an expedited arms sale process and a US loan guarantee programme, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports. It is also eligible for more sophisticated weaponry and can stockpile US military equipment.

It is no surprise, therefore, that since 9/11, the US has provided Pakistan with an estimated $8 billion in security assistance, $11 billion in economic assistance, and $13 billion under the Coalition Support Funds (CSF).

Pakistan has used these funds to substantially refurbish its armed forces through purchase of much lethal and state-of-the-art weaponry including inter alia 32 F16s, hundreds of armoured personnel carriers, over 2,000 anti-armour missiles etc. Indeed, as recently as April 2015, the US State Department has approved foreign military sales to Pakistan of 15 Viper attack helicopters and 1,000 Hell Fire missiles in a $950 million deal.

Despite this US largesse, Pakistan, far from actively addressing terrorism, has become a breeding ground for it and supports many terrorist outfits. Specifically, it has provided shelter and support to the Afghan Taliban as well as the Haqqani network which have been targeting the US forces and interests in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Mike Mullen, way back in 2011, went so far as to term the Haqqani network as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s ISI.

It is also well-known that former Pakistani military officers have been assisting the Taliban in their attacks on the US and the ISAF troops, and are even represented within the Taliban leadership. Finally, Pakistan’s complicity in protecting Osama bin Laden constitutes a telling testimony to it having been an unworthy partner in the global war on terror. It is these factors which led law maker Ted Poe to introduce a bill in the US Congress in 2012 seeking removal of “treacherous” Islamabad’s MNNA status.

Pakistan’s cultivation of Afghan terrorist outfits is a part of its policy of using terror as an instrument for further-ing its ends which it has been doing vis-a-vis India since 1947. Thus, a host of terrorist groups has been created and supported by it under the aegis of the ISI for destabilising India and Afghanistan.

A near failed state

This, coupled with Pakistan’s revisionist agenda which is controlled by the military, the subordination of development requirements to the demands of the military, and the increasing influence of fundamentalist Islam, makes the country a near failed state and a factor for instability in the region and globally. Thus, Pakistan has been a notorious proliferator and has today emerged as the fount of terrorism – a global threat.

The US approach to dealing with Pakistan since the fifties has been through engagement and providing vast amounts of assistance. Though this has not yielded the desired results, as Pakistan has more often than not been an unreliable ally, the US continues to persist with this approach.

However, some Americans like Congressmen Poe have been arguing for reducing or even terminating the US assistance to Pakistan. The noted US scholar, Christine Fair, for instance, points out that the US assistance to Pakistan is, in fact, counterproductive as it helps it confront India, does not stop it from creating terrorists and selectively addressing them, and only ends up rewarding Pakistan for engaging in the very activities that the US seeks to curtail.

Indeed, given the fungibility of funds, the provision of the US aid is tantamount to subsidising Pakistan’s investment in its jihadi and nuclear capabilities. Accordingly, Christine Fair argues that the US must adopt a new policy towards Pakistan that embraces containment and punitive actions unless the latter shuts down the infrastructure of terror created by it.

In the same manner, some members of the Indian strategic community in a press statement in August 2013, had argued that, “India has for much too long meekly put up with Pakistan-inspired terrorism... This has only encouraged Pakistan in its pursuit of such policies. It is time that policies are devised that will impose a cost on Pakistan for its export of terror to India, and thus change the cost-benefit calculus of these policies and actions.”

(The writer is former Indian high commissioner in Pakistan and Deputy National Security Advisor)

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