Well begun’s half done

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Well begun’s half done

Trump may have just begun the process of ending the US role as Pakistan's enabler

President Donald J Trump is fast-emerging as the best thing that could have happened to India since readymade chapatis, as it were. In his very first tweet of 2018, Trump put Pakistan in his crosshairs accusing Islamabad of “lies and deceit” in its stance on fighting terror despite receiving billions of dollars in American aid. In a scathing indictment of previous US Administrations which have been led by the nose by various East Coast liberal security-strategic policy think-tanks, Trump called out Pakistan for virtually swallowing up 33 billion dollars of US aid pumped in over the past 15 years which America had “foolishly given” that country. “They have given us (in return) nothing but lies and deceit… thinking of our leaders as fools… Pakistan gives safe haven to terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan… No more!” Whew.

As surround sound goes, it doesn't getter better than this — and given that Trump's statement comes a few days after his Administration's decision to withhold 255 million dollars in US aid till Pakistan demonstrated it was serious about fighting terrorism, Islamabad has certainly been made to squirm. A sober assessment of these developments, however, would lead inexorably to the conclusion that while the Trump Administration should be applauded for this robust step it is nonetheless only a first step in isolating Pakistan. For, the monies being withheld, it must be noted, are only those disbursed under the US-Pakistan bilateral rubric. Billions more of US tax-payers' dollars flow into Pakistan as part of American funding of the international coalition fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. And even more funds, indeed the largest chunk of aid to Pakistan, comes to that country through multilateral funding agencies such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank which are in the main US-controlled with Japan, an all-weather American ally, also having a significant say.

In the near term, these are the funds that need to be first squeezed and then turned off; for, the monies it receives as aid (all put together) virtually keeps Pakistan afloat and allows its security establishment to cynically use terror as an instrument of state policy while encouraging an Islamic brainwashing within and fundamentalist outreach abroad.The good news, especially from India's point of view, is that the Trump Administration seems to be guided by those who have understood the fundamental conflict between civilised nation-states on the one hand and military-backed theocracies on the other; only because that understanding suits American interests for the moment, perhaps, but it is extant nonetheless.

The question for New Delhi is what it plans to do to leverage this happy coincidence of Indian and American national interests coinciding in a given space and time and, subsequently, how this factor is then incorporated into India's Pakistan policy. It's about tactics, essentially, because strategically the Indo-US alignment is pretty much on course whether the engagement is in economic, cultural or military terms. To begin working towards the dismantling of Pakistan as a unified territorial entity without causing chaos, whether nuclear or otherwise, in the neighbourhood is perhaps the only viable if unfortunate tactic left for those who have had to bear the brunt of Islamabad's perfidy.Our caveat is the US Administration must stay the course, albeit in its own interest.

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