Pakistan may see this as a temporary glitch in relations and it’s highly unlikely its stance on terror groups will change any time in the near future.
Pakistan will not receive $350 million from the US coalition support fund for 2016 of the budgeted $900 million that was to be offered. For a second year running, the defence secretary was unable to certify that Pakistan was willing to act against Islamist groups like the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban. This may lead to further fraying of ties between the allies. Pakistan may see this as a temporary glitch in relations and it’s highly unlikely its stance on terror groups will change any time in the near future. The country has received $14 billion of such grants over the last 15 years. A cut of $350 million now can only be seen as a drop rather than as definitive action on freezing of funds, most of which basically go to arming the Pakistan military though these funds are earmarked for the fight against terrorism.
Confirmation of cutting funds came in a state department annual report on terrorism released two days earlier. It said that Pakistan is among nations providing safe havens to terrorists and that terror groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed “continued to operate, train, organise and fundraise inside the country in 2016”. This message is far more significant, particularly from India’s point of view as the statement went beyond the old US grouse of Pakistan not doing enough to contain the terror groups that operate in Afghanistan against US interests. Pakistan was upbraided for not taking sufficient action against LeT and JeM, which while “continuing to operate, train, organise and fundraise” in Pakistan, are focused on attacking India in cross-border terrorism.
The Trump administration was prepared to go beyond the matter of the hurt caused by the body bags of American soldiers being flown home from Afghanistan. It has chastised Pakistan for fomenting terror in the region, across two frontiers. It has recognised the fact that India has been experiencing terror attacks mostly due to Pakistan-based terrorists. While the cynical view is that Pakistan will emerge unscathed from this round of serious charges, as it has always done, the difference may be in the occupant of the White House. Donald Trump’s actions are unpredictable. He could be swayed by “America First”, which could mean the policy shift may not happen as quickly. However, US downgrading Pakistan from a close non-Nato ally is not on the cards yet.
The US state department’s report’s accuracy in listing the UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed organising large rallies and open fundraising is endorsement of India’s position that terror in Jammu and Kashmir springs from Pakistan — not only encouraging it but actively assisting it in getting operators across the frontier. Pakistan’s chagrin at being a victim of terrorism fails to cut ice because of its duplicitous stand. If the latest US words and action nudge it in the direction of opposing terrorism in any form without designating it as “good” and “bad”, there may be fewer deaths to deal with in the region.