Some six decades ago the ever-caustic Krishna Menon had asked if for all their sophisticated technology American arms manufacturers could produce a gun that fired in one direction. At the core of that unanswered query was Pakistan’s duplicity, and exploiting to dubious advantage the considerable financial aid provided by Washington. The point has been powerfully re-emphasised in President Donald Trump’s accusing Islamabad of “lies and deceit”, misusing 33 billion dollars of aid over the past 15 years, and giving a safe haven to the terrorists being hunted in Afghanistan. For starters the Trump administration has gone on to announce the suspension of a substantial aid package, but the larger question is whether the US will carry Trump’s threat through to its logical conclusion.
The US has long been alive to the double-game Pakistan has been playing ~ if it was trying to wrest Kashmir from India during Krishna Menon’s time, its increasingly radicalised military that “controls” the nation’s affairs has developed to a fine art the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, even against US interests ~ but has stopped short of curtailing aid to an extent which caused Islamabad to hurt. Hence the world will be watching if this is not another case of Trump’s blusterb eing little more than an angry outburst. Clearly there is need to pressure Islamabad, but no action-line is apparent by which the writ of the military is curtailed and enlightened civil society regains the power to ensure that a principled Pakistan takes its place in the comity of nations.
It is a trifle disturbing that while the External Affairs ministry opted for mature reticence over the apparent downswing in US-Pak relations, a minister of state in PMO reduced India to ridicule by contending that New Delhi had been “vindicated” by President Trump’s slamming of Pakistan. It betrayed the cheap thrills generated by any brand of US “certification”. Foreign affairs are delicate and complex, the Prime Minister would to well to restrain his underlings. There really is little scope for glee or gloating, a downgrading of Pakistan does not equate with an upgrading of India ~ except in myopic minds. Internal troubles in Pakistan bring little gain to India except that the “non-state actors” get a free hand.
The Pakistani reaction to Trump has, even if temporarily, brought a degree of unity to its political establishment. India needs to closely monitor how Islamabad sets about enhancing its relations with both Beijing and Moscow: which would be to India’s detriment. There will soon be a change of guard in the MEA, and new personal relationships will have to be forged, maybe some time taken for things to settle down. Hence there is small cause for joy over an assumption ~ little more than that ~ of being “vindicated”.