India, sharing common anxieties with the US against a rising China, has assumed new importance on Washington’s radar while Pakistan can no longer enjoy a special status like it did during the war on terror in Afghanistan, a leading Chinese daily has said.
In an opinion piece on last week’s India-US 2+2 dialogue, the Global Times, which reflects the view of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said it appeared the US’ South Asia policy has witnessed significant developments in the past few weeks.
On the one hand, Washington announced it would cancel $300 million in military assistance to Pakistan and named Zalmay Khalilzad, a long-time critic of Pakistan, as a special envoy to Afghanistan while on the other it signed with New Delhi a long-due major military communications agreement which allows the two countries to closely coordinate on a compatible network just like the US and its closest allies do, the newspaper added.
It pointed out that the Trump administration, in its National Security Strategy and the National Defence Strategy, recently indicated that Washington’s strategic focus has shifted from dealing with global terrorism to managing major power rivalries.
“So, when it comes to its South Asia policy, this sea change in concept has also been materialised into concrete policy options toward both Pakistan and India,” it added.
As a result of Washington’s strategic focus shift, the US-Pakistan relationship has been troubled for some time. In his first talk about South Asian policy in August 2017, Trump went so far as to openly denounce Pakistan as the “safe havens” for terrorist organisations. Again, Trump’s very first tweet in 2018 was a surprising and scathing attack on Pakistan, accusing the country of providing “nothing but lies and deceit” in return for multi-billion US aid over past 15 or so years. Since then, Washington suspended more than $1.1 billion in security assistance to Pakistan.
The final cancellation of $300 million assistance announced on 1 September was actually part of Coalition Support Funds which had been suspended initially at the beginning of the year, the daily said.
In the post-9/11 era, the US offered billions of dollars to Pakistan in order to support counter-terrorism mission against Al-Qaeda, to operationalise robust intelligence cooperation and to equip Pakistani army with the capacity to target militants from all around.
But, as Al-Qaeda has been decimated over time and threat from other radical groups have grown, Washington found its aid to Pakistan increasingly hard to justify.
Even if Washington needs Islamabad to carry on their cooperation when it comes to the Afghanistan issue, the former, under the Machiavellian Trump administration, seemingly minds little if it approaches India at Pakistan’s expense, be it security and diplomatic.