Aid tap turning off

In response to Pakistan’s attempts to reverse the carte blanche given by it to the Americans during the Musharraf regime, the US has withheld over a third of the military aid — $ 800 million — to Pakistan this year. In principle, it is perfectly within the realm of propriety for Pakistan to roll back undue US influence in the country, but how to do it is a question of debate. Things had been souring between the US and Pakistan over some time, which became manifest in the Raymond Davis case. Moreover, Pakistan’s military and the ISI have been looking to fulfil their plan for the Afghan endgame to insert the Taliban in power after US withdrawal. Although the US is engaging with the Taliban for a negotiated political settlement, it has completely bypassed Pakistan. This also became a point of friction.

All these things have been accumulating and the crowning feather of the Pak-US rift was the Abbottabad incident. When Pakistan faced embarrassment both domestically and internationally following the Abbottabad raid, in a fit of nationalism, the military accelerated the process of cutting back ties with the US: it sent back American military trainers; the number of visas issued to the US personnel was reduced; and intelligence sharing stopped altogether.Following the raid, suspicion and accusations of complicity were being hurled around in the US Congress and the media. Despite the US administration’s efforts to somehow prevent a complete breakdown of relations due to the overall strategic stakes in the region, the trend of opinion was running against Pakistan and, as predicted, the tap has finally been turned off by withholding the aid. The army is trying to put a positive spin on it by saying that we can do without the US aid. If indeed the military sustain without foreign aid, why did it keep receiving it and burdened itself, and the country, with an uneasy relationship?

There are sections, which believe that Pakistan should turn towards China to replace the US. However, China has its reservations about our conduct and time and again tried to tell Pakistan to stop exporting jihad, improve relations with neighbours and concentrate on building the country internally. They are not inclined to offer monitory aid to Pakistan. Therefore, there is a need to realistically assess our options. Pakistan’s dependence on the US, however galling, is a reality. We cannot get rid of it overnight without hurting ourselves immeasurably. The US is the only superpower in the world today and it has vast clout and influence. It can persuade the international financial institutions to stop giving loans to Pakistan. What will be Pakistan’s strategy, with an economy teetering on the brink, to deal with such eventuality?

Pakistan needs to renegotiate the terms of engagement with the US but use the leverage it has being the major supply route of NATO troops in Afghanistan, intelligently and through a well thought out strategy, to recover some of the space it has conceded in a relatively one-sided relationship. Knee-jerk reactions will only damage Pakistan. Last but not the least, Pakistan must realise that the export of jihad enterprise has outlived its utility, and respond to the imperatives of the current age. – Dailytimes