ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan’s aggressive policy after President Donald Trump’s aid snub has forced the United States to soften its approach towards Pakistan with Washington conditionally ready to grant concessions, diplomatic sources said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the message from the US was clear: “We want friendship. Let us work together sincerely.”

The US, an official said, did not want to lose Pakistan but still suspected Islamabad as a partner.

“They are ready to grant concessions but have attached some conditions. The first and the foremost being: ‘play fair’. We are trying to assure them we have never played foul,” he added.

Pakistan is also considering to seek “pending payments” amounting to billions of dollars from the US after Trump announced to suspend aid last month.

The US said it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the US was suspending “security assistance only” to Pakistan .

She clarified that Pakistan would be able to receive the suspended funding if it took “decisive actions” against the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan claims the money it had received from the US was mainly reimbursements for supporting US-led coalition forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Islamabad threatened to end the partnership if pressed to the limits.

An aggressive Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, even publically snubbed Washington saying the alliance with the US was “over.”

This week, the US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said his country could, “consider ending a suspension” of security assistance to Pakistan , if “decisive and sustained” action was taken against all the militant groups, referring to the Haqqani network.

He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We may consider lifting the suspension when we see decisive and sustained actions to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory, without distinction.”

But Sullivan, added the US had seen “no evidence” that Pakistan had met its demands for a crackdown on the militant groups on Pakistani side of the Afghan border.

Simultaneously, the US House of Representatives has joined the Senate seeking end to the US economic aid to Pakistan .

A bill introduced in the House said that non-defence aid to Pakistan should also be discontinued.

The movers argued they were seeking the ban because Pakistan allegedly, “provides military aid and intelligence” to terrorist.

The bill has been introduced by Congressmen Mark Sanford from South Carolina and Thomas Massie from Kentucky.

It seeks to ban the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development from sending American taxpayer money to Pakistan .

Another official at the foreign ministry said the US had offered the olive branch and Pakistan was wanted to grant the opportunity.

“Our contacts in the recent days have been positive. The hope [for reconciliation and improvement in ties] has rekindled. We are working to translate the positives into practical steps,” he said.

The official said the bill to stop economic aid to Pakistan was US’ internal matter unless it was implemented.

“As we have conveyed to the US already we are not dependent on their assistance but ending the aid will definitely not be a friendly step,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Centre for International Strategic Studies arranged a roundtable discussion on “Brokering peace in nuclear environments: US crisis management in south Asia” here on Wednesday.

Dr Moeed Yusuf, associate vice president for Asia programmes at the US Institute of Peace participated, as keynote speaker on the occasion.

He discussed his forthcoming book, “Brokering peace in nuclear environments: US crisis management in south Asia”, which would be published by the prestigious Stanford University Press in May this year.

Dr Yusuf said that the book aimed to expound upon the implications of third-party involvement in crises between regional nuclear powers like India and Pakistan .

This is the first book that studies the effects of the presence of nuclear weapons on the behaviour of global powers like the United States as they try to influence behaviour of regional nuclear rivals.

The author pointed out that the contemporary concepts pertaining to deterrence were based on what was learnt during the Cold War crises that emerged during this period focused on the United States and the Soviet Union and were not influenced by the involvement of a stronger third party.

In south Asia, however, the situation is rather different.

The US involvement in crises between India and Pakistan since their nuclear tests in 1998 has been consistent and it will be inevitable in the future, he said.

Dr Yusuf said the presence of nuclear weapons ensured this.

Pakistan must be prepared to deal with this reality irrespective of the state of its relationship with the US.

He maintained that Pakistan and India would be compelled to engage with the US and even other strong powers like China, and try and achieve their crisis objectives through them rather than contemplating direct conflict in a nuclear environment.

CISS Executive Director Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi made the following points.

First, deterrence in south Asia has worked for near 20 years of overt nuclear capability achieved by India and Pakistan .

“There is perhaps an innate rationality, not always apparent, in the behaviour of the two countries. Second, the theory needed to define what constitutes a nuclear crisis, as the features of a conventional military crisis, as against a nuclear crisis are better defined. Third, so far the US role as a third party was rational, but with the Trump presidency, it may not be the case in the future,” he said.

 

 

Shafqat Ali