ISLAMABAD   -   Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi yesterday said that the Pakistan-United States ties were currently at a ‘standstill’ as the US has cancelled $300 million aid to Pakistan.

Speaking to journalists here, Qureshi said the US had not cut aid but the reimbursement of expenditures which “we incurred while fighting the war on terror.”

Qureshi dismissed as incorrect reports the United States has cancelled $300 million in aid to Pakistan, saying Washington owed the money to Islamabad for expenses incurred on fighting terrorism. “It is not a cut in any aid, it is not assistance. This is our own money which we have used for improving regional security situation and they had to reimburse it to us,” Qureshi elaborated.

The top diplomat said that Pakistan will promote relations with the US based on mutual trusts, respect and dignity. He said Pakistan has rendered huge human and financial sacrifices for peace and security in the region.

The foreign minister alleged the previous government did nothing to improve the Pak-US ties.

Qureshi said that the upcoming visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other high officials was a ‘window of opportunity’. “We will discuss various issues during their visit,” he added.

The minister said that the civil and the military leadership were in the same page and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the General Headquarters “augurs well for improved civil military relations in the country.”

Other foreign ministry officials said that the US decision to cancel $300 million aid to Pakistan ahead of the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford was not any surprise.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that though expected, the decision had still irked Islamabad as Pakistan wanted to keep the ‘atmosphere healthy’ before Pompeo’s visit.

One of the officials said: “We had forgotten this aid long ago. It doesn’t matter if they release it or hold it. But leaking this to media before Pak-US talks is annoying.”

Another official said: “We have not contacted the US on the aid and will not do so. Pakistan can manage (its financial issues).”

The Pak-US ties have been frosty for several months. In January, the US suspended security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. State Department said the US was suspending ‘security assistance’ to Pakistan as the trust level between the two countries drastically declined. Washington said Pakistan will be able to receive the suspended funding if it took ‘decisive actions’ against the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan claimed it fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources “which has cost over $120 billion in 15 years.” Islamabad clarified that the money it had received from the US was mainly reimbursements for supporting US-led coalition forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Earlier, reports said the US military had made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan for alleged failure to take ‘decisive action’ against militants.

The Defence Department has sought to cut aid by $300 million “due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in an email to AFP.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Faulkner said, adding that the latest aid cut request was pending Congressional approval.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis could have authorised $300 million in CSF funds but he opted against it. Another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.

Over the weekend, two Pakistani companies - Technology Links Pvt Ltd and Techcare Services FZ — were placed under the Entity List by the Export Administration Regulations by the US. In a federal notification, the US Department of Commerce said that the entities added to the EAR list had been determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the US.

Last week, Pakistan supported Iran over its ‘principled stance’ on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the P5+1 and the European Union, upsetting Washington.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi – in a meeting with Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif in Islamabad on August 31 - said Pakistan supported Iran’s principled stance and expressed the hope that remaining parties to the agreement would uphold their commitments in ‘letter and spirit.’

The deal, commonly as the Iran nuclear deal, was reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015 between Iran, the P5+1  - the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, US plus Germany - and the European Union. In May, US President Donald Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the agreement.

Pompeo and Dunford are expected in Pakistan on September 5 to hold talks with Pakistan new leadership on “action against common foes and terrorists.” Defence Secretary James Mattis said: “It will be made clear to authorities in Pakistan that what we have to do for all our nations.”

International relations expert Huma Baqai said the Pakistan-US ties had deteriorated like ‘never before.’ “We still have a chance as Pompeo and Dunford are coming for talks. Prime Minister (Imran Khan) has shown intent to improve ties with the US but at the same time he is not ready to accept unjust demands,” she said.

Huma Baqai said Pakistan had always offered to play a role for Afghanistan peace and now even the US had accepted Pakistan’s stance that there was no military solution to the Afghan issue.

“Pakistan is ready to play its role for Afghan peace as it is in its own national interests. The US should understand Pakistan’s position,” she said.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, another International Relations expert said the US was trying all tactics to pressure Pakistan. 

“The US must realize that Pakistan is key to Afghan peace and US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pak-US ties should be on equality basis. The US should also respect Pakistan’s interests,” he said.

Pakistan, he said, had improved ties with Russia. “With China, Pakistan already had good relations so Pakistan cannot be isolated.”

 

 

Pak-US ties at a standstill: FM