Trump’s about-turn on Pak dangerous

US President Donald Trump greets Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. (Reuters File Photo)

US President Donald Trump’s decision to resume military sales worth $125 million to Pakistan is not only a 360-degree about-turn in his policy and perception of Islamabad but also, it represents an endorsement, indeed an abject surrender on the part of the US to Pakistan’s decades-old policy of anti-India terrorism and aggression. Trump has been a strong critic of Pakistan. He accused it of “lies and deceit” and of providing safe havens for terrorists fighting American soldiers in Afghanistan, despite taking $33 billion in financial aid since 2002. The Trump administration froze aid to Pakistan last year. This was ostensibly aimed at getting Islamabad to cooperate more with the US in fighting terrorism. Consequently, its recent decision to resume military aid makes little sense as Pakistan has done nothing substantial to distance itself from using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy against India and Afghanistan. Facing international isolation, Islamabad took small steps in recent months to convince the world that it is fighting terrorism. It arrested Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, for instance. However, it has done so several times in the past, only to release him a few months later. Thus, these were at best superficial and meaningless steps. In the circumstances, the US’ resumption of military aid to Pakistan appears as an endorsement of Islamabad’s continuing support to terrorism. It underscores yet again Washington’s half-hearted support to the war on terrorism it supposedly leads.

Ongoing talks with the Taliban could have prompted the US move. It is well-known that these talks are aimed more at facilitating the exit of American troops from Afghanistan than at ushering in a lasting peace there. Keen to reach a settlement with the Taliban before he faces voters next year, Trump wants Pakistan to use its leverage over the Taliban to deliver a deal. At their meeting in Washington, Trump and visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seemed to have reached an understanding. In return for resumption of US military aid to Pakistan, the latter will push the Taliban to settle with the Americans. Khan’s clever diplomacy has been successful in resetting Pakistan-US relations.

This is a matter of grave concern for India. Pakistan will receive F-16 fighter jet upgrades under the deal. Following the Balakot strikes, Pakistan used its F-16 jets against India. To pacify India now, Washington has said that end-use monitoring of F-16 jets will be done by its officials in Pakistan. While this is welcome, India’s past experiences with Pakistan and its use of US military equipment against India calls for caution. India must make Washington realise that its hasty about-turn is dangerous.

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