Donald Trump's decision is not surprising as it was in the making for around a year, but could be one of the most significant geopolitical moment of the 18-year-old 21st century.
Donald Trump is walking the talk. Days after the United States president publicly accused Pakistan of “lies” and “deceit”, the US has suspended over $1.15 billion military aid to Islamabad. The decision is not surprising as it was in the making for around a year, but could be one of the most significant geopolitical moment of the 18-year-old 21st century. Announcing the decision, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert had told reporters that national security assistance to Islamabad has been suspended until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against terror groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network.
Two things are clear for now. First, the US will remove the suspension if Pakistan actually changes and starts acting against the terror groups operating from its soil. However, this is highly unlikely. As senior journalist Barkha Dutt writes in the Washington Post: “For Indians, Trump’s tweet and the suspension of funds was a moment of vindication. But the unfortunate reality is that publicly shaming Pakistan, as Trump has done, and even the cuts in security aid have very little real impact on a country whose skin has grown comfortably thick from rhetorical battering.”
Second, in the name of so-called national interest, the Pakistani military establishment will defy American diktat and move closer towards the Chinese – early signals of this have started appearing from reactions in the Chinese media. Former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani was to the point when he told Barkha Dutt that the US aid cut “may not be the huge price” that will force Pakistan to change the three-decades-old policy of terrorism.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif even told Geo News on Thursday that Islamabad would survive the US Aid cut. “They did it in the past as well, which is evident from our history. They have always betrayed us in hard times,” Geo News quoted Asif as saying.
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
It is apparent that Pakistan won’t compromise on continuing with its policy of terror and Trump’s loud social media attacks on Islamabad means nothing from trigger-happy Pakistani authorities. Ayesha Siddiqa writes in The Indian Express, “After coming to power, this is the loudest that US President Donald Trump may have shouted at Pakistan, but it all seems to have little effect. In fact, if anything, the import of Trump’s tweet seems to drown in the din of public outrage.”
She further writes, that in Pakistan “the popular narrative is that the US is needlessly blaming Pakistan for controlling the situation in Afghanistan when Washington itself is seen as unable to perform, despite its 46-nation strong military coalition.”
Impetus to China-Pakistan military, business alliance
Trump’s actions against Pakistan has provided a ground for the beginning of a new military alliance between China and Islamabad. A report in Chinese daily Global Times says, “Trump’s tweet, which accused Pakistan of giving safe haven to terrorists, drew a stern backlash in Islamabad and staunch defence of Pakistan in Beijing.”
In the wake of US Aid cut, Pakistani state bank has taken measures to ensure that public and private sectors of both countries are free to choose Chinese currency Yuan for bilateral trade and investment activities. Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times, “This is more of a political statement in response to pressure from the US, telling the US that Pakistan has a great relationship with China and that Pakistan would become even closer with China.”
Beijing is also constructing its second overseas military base in Pakistan. According to Washington Times, the military base will be built at Jiwani, a port near Iranian border on the Gulf of Oman. As per the report, the Jiwani base will be a “joint naval and air facility for Chinese forces” and located near the Chinese-built Commercial port at Gwadar.