Written by admin on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

US not engaging Pakistan as a democracy, says defence minister
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Tuesday March 27, 2018

Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan has said that the strained bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the United States (US) stems from Washington’s focus on a military partnership with Islamabad rather than engaging the country as a democracy, according to Voice of America News.

In an interview with the news agency, the minister argued that the approach pushed Pakistan to turn towards China and initiate rapprochement with Russia, as the US moves away from providing military assistance to a major non-NATO ally.

The US-Pakistan relationship has suffered as successive White House administrations have blamed the country for not doing enough to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries along the PAk-Afghan border.

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US President Donald Trump suspended more than $900 million in security assistance to Pakistan in January this year, as part of his new strategy to incrementally increase pressure on Islamabad until it takes action against militants.

Verbal attacks by Trump accusing Pakistan of “nothing but lies and deceit” in return for US cooperation have also contributed to a new historic low in the ties between the two countries.

“We are still very serious in maintaining our engagement with the United States…Unfortunately, the Trump administration has chosen to focus on the transactional part of the relationship,” Dastagir told VOA, while referring to US military assistance for counter-terrorism operations.

Diplomats have been shuttling back and forth between Washington and Islamabad ever since Trump announced the decision to suspend aid, as signs of a thaw in bilateral ties are still not visible.

The defence minister says that despite adverse actions, Pakistan has not “impeded or blocked” lines of communications which are vital sustain the international military presence in Afghanistan.

Dastgir has also questioned whether a “productive partnership” with the US is still possible in the present circumstances.

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“You can’t have a country whom you would accuse of being deceitful and simultaneously being a major non-NATO ally. So, the contradictions in 2018 have become too large,” the minster stated.

Dastgir rejected the allegations as “illogical” that Pakistan harbors “safe havens” and cited the US military’s latest assessments that the Taliban controls or contests large chunks of the Afghan territory.

“[Nearly] half of the country is a safe haven but your [US] focus is on remnants in Pakistan…When you don’t control 45 per cent of Afghanistan and don’t know what is going on there, who is there, who is moving in and out of that safe haven, but you keep blaming us,” he lamented.

Over the years, Pakistan has conducted military operations in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, which have recently resulted in the elimination of all terrorists groups from the region.

Pakistan also maintains that the country has lost tens of thousands of lives in the war against terror since 2001, and US demands of “do more” are viewed as disappointing in Islamabad.

Pakistan has struggled with militancy and terror in the last decade, as security problems have scared away foreign investment, caused a huge energy crisis and resulted in billions of dollars in economic losses.

“That was the time [2013] when Pakistan’s democracy needed consolidation and it was at that time that the US chose to begin pulling away,” Dastgir said in the interview.

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The quantum of US military and economic aid had become “insignificant” by 2018, he said, and explained why China has since increased its influence in Pakistan.

“China acted first and Pakistan needed support very seriously and grievously. Now that we have it five years later, we have nearly resolved the energy crisis, we have nearly resolved the terrorism crisis. So, now that people of Pakistan and the government of Pakistan, which represents the people, look back, we see China as standing with us and the US is constantly receding.”

The unprecedented Chinese investment in Pakistan, under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), will add 12,000 megawatts of electricity in the national grid by June this year, according to reports.

The defence minister called on the US president to revisit the new South Asia policy for a more stable and productive partnership with Pakistan.

“The US has not made, in our view, a serious effort to engage Pakistan as a democracy, and a democracy which has an elected government,” he insisted.

“Yes, the [Pakistan] military has its own influence and its own operations. But if this relationship is to become long lasting, if this relationship has to have firm basis it has now to become no longer a military-to-military relationship, which it currently is. It has to become a relationship between two democracies. That is the way forward,” asserted the Pakistani defence minister.


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