Trump’s Asia policy and the widening trust deficit
After the January 2018 tirade by Trump that Pakistan has given the US only “lies and deceit,” relations between the two countries have continued to deteriorate. The $255 million US military aid was suspended, the FATF was pressurised into declaring Pakistan grey and the US threatened to stop the IMF from lending to Islamabad. Despite all this, talks between the two countries continued through both diplomatic and military channels, indicating a need felt by both for each other. Meanwhile despite the tense relations the volume of bilateral trade between the two touched new heights.
Trump’s latest remarks at a cabinet meeting were couched in a more polite language. These must not however lead anyone to develop unrealistic expectations as the content of the message remains unchanged. The US wants to have good relation with Pakistan provided Islamabad is willing to do more i.e., refuse to host the networks hostile to the US and its friends and allies. Despite maintaining a veneer of politeness Trump has shown his teeth by reminding Pakistan that he had ended the $1.3 billion payment being made to it.
There is a deep seated mistrust between the two countries that has to be addressed before there can be any genuine understanding between them. With the US looking at the Afghan issue through the prism of Trump’s Asia policy where India plays a crucial role Pakistan’s establishment thinks it has to go for a risk management policy which includes keeping friendly ties with the Afghan Taliban. While the US is unwilling to persuade India to resolve its differences with Pakistan, it pressurises Islamabad to fight the Afghan Taliban and also take effective measures against Kashmir specific networks that include JuD and JeM. Unless the issue of lack of trust is resolved, there is little possibility of the two sides reaching a genuine understanding.
It is shortsighted on the part of information minister to hope that issues between Pakistan and US can be resolved provided Trump recognises Islamabad’s importance.