Trump needs to step back, US can’t risk abandoning Pakistan: NYT editorial


New York: United States President Donald Trump needs to take a step back, exercise caution and patience, and focus more on having quiet diplomatic negotiations with Pakistan on the issue of neutralising support to terror elements operating from its soil, says an editorial in the New York Times.

The editorial is of the view that President Trump can ill afford walking away from Pakistan at this juncture of his presidency, and will need to acknowledge that Islamabad has and will continue to be a source of vital intelligence. He would also have to keep in mind that Pakistan has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, which has always been a matter of regional and global concern.

“Whether Pakistan will cooperate after the aid freeze remains to be seen. Initially, some Pakistani officials reacted harshly to the announcement, which came as a surprise, but on Friday, a Foreign Ministry statement talked about the need for mutual respect and patience as the two countries address common threats,” says the editorial, suggesting that tone and engagement is now even tempered.

“Mr. Trump could marshal other diplomatic tools to see if more constructive cooperation with Pakistan is possible. One idea would be to harness his new friendships with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to shut down Haqqani and other Taliban fund-raising efforts in the Persian Gulf. This would, of course, require quiet negotiations, not shouting,” the editorial adds.

It further goes on to say that Pakistan has posed a dilemma for the United States for long, and the Trump administration’s announcement this week that it would freeze nearly all military aid to Pakistan, roughly USD 1.3 billion annually, should for now just be seen as an act of initial frustration and bombast.

It warns that Pakistan has the potential to retaliate by denying access, shutting down supply lines to Afghanistan, ally more closely with China and be more hard-line in its rivalry with India. China could once again be the beneficiary of a Trump decision whose signature tune is estrangement with and from long-time partners.

The NYT editorial says that while Trump may have highlighted a real point, “he has given no assurance that he would not make matters worse.”

Americans last cut off assistance to Pakistan in the 1990s after it tested a nuclear weapon and underwent a military coup, creating distrust between the two countries that has never dissipated. But after September 11, 2001, the relationship transformed overnight. Washington has demanded that Islamabad perform on counter-terrorism in return for new aid.

Since then, Pakistan has played a double game, accepting American funding while backing militants who protect Pakistani interests in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

President Trump is not the first to call a spade a spade. In 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee that the Haqqani Network was a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani security service. “Extremist organisations serving as proxies of the Government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers,” he said.