Pakistan will discontinue its discussions with the United States this month if U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration insists on pressuring Islamabad to stop harboring terrorists who are fighting and killing American troops in Afghanistan, the Express-Tribune learned from an anonymous “well-placed source.”
Islamabad has demanded that the Trump administration revise its South Asia strategy to Pakistan’s satisfaction.
According to the unnamed source, the Trump administration recently assured Pakistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York that “it will remove its reservations on the new Afghan policy through ‘dialogue.’”
Although the Trump plan primarily focuses on pressuring the Taliban into a reconciliation agreement with the U.S.-backed Kabul government, it also deals with the relationship between America and Afghanistan’s Pakistani and Indian neighbors.
When unveiling his South Asia plan in August, President Trump excoriated Pakistan for serving as a sanctuary for jihadists, threatening to take decisive action if Islamabad refuses to target the terrorists who receive shelter within its borders, namely the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Haqqani Network, among others.
“If the U.S. foreign secretary demands for more action from Islamabad then there will be only one answer from the government: ‘No more do more,’” the source told the Express-Tribune, noting that Islamabad would refuse a “do-more” demand of any country including the United States.
The Pakistani government will only hold discussions on the “basis of equality,” stressed the source.
U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells are reportedly expected to travel to Islamabad this month to discuss the Trump administration’s new South Asia strategy.
“During the visit, Pakistan will judge as to whether the U.S. is serious to expand its relations with Pakistan. If the U.S. foreign secretary gave any assurance of adopting a strategy to remove Pakistan’s reservations on new Afghan policy, the federation will start next phase of talks with Trump authorities,” the anonymous source told the Tribune.
The visit will focus on removing “the present tension between the two countries and the ensuing talks will discuss the role of Pakistan in establishing peace in Afghanistan; Islamabad’s reservations on Trump’s Afghan policy; [and] mutual cooperation for eradication of terrorism and the regional situation,” explains the Pakistani news outlet.
The United States is reportedly aware of the Pakistani government’s position against America’s demand to “do more” against terrorism.
U.S. officials will attempt to alleviate Pakistan’s concerns over Trump’s South Asia strategy during the upcoming visit, claimed the source.
Islamabad has already delayed Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells’ visit to Pakistan in response to Trump’s new strategy.
“If the U.S. establishes parity based relations with Pakistan, the latter will adopt a strategy of cooperation with Trump government on all issues including eradication of terrorism,” notes the Tribune, citing “sources.”
Pakistan reportedly vowed to continue working towards reconciliation between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul regardless of what happens with the Washington-Islamabad relationship.
The source told the Tribune that Pakistan has also dismissed the United States’ reservation about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a component of Beijing’s new multi-billion dollar Silk Road project, as “unacceptable.”
“Work on the CPEC project will continue come what may. Pakistan’s priority is not the U.S, but China because Pakistan’s economic future is associated with the CPEC,” declared the source, noting that after the recent visit to India by American officials, “the U.S. had expressed reservations on the CPEC in an apparent bid to make this project disputed. But Pakistan will complete this project with coordination of China at all costs.”
China is expected to extend its $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into Afghanistan, reported the National.
Although Beijing has reportedly benefited economically from the U.S. investments in improving security in Afghanistan, China refuses to escalate its involvement in the country.
China has joined its ally Pakistan in outright rejecting the Trump administration’s South Asia strategy. Both allies consider India to be a regional rival.
To the dismay of both China and Pakistan, the United States has vowed to deepen and enhance its relationship with India as part of its new South Asia strategy. India has provided billions in economic and military aid to Afghanistan since the U.S.-NATO-led war started in October 2001.
Islamabad has long denied the Pentagon’s accusations that it lends support to jihadists who operate in Afghanistan.
However, the majority of jihadi strongholds and terrorist attacks in Afghanistan are concentrated in areas along the Pakistan border.
Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and NATO troops in the conflict-ridden country, has designated the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as home to the largest concentration of terrorist groups in the world.
The U.S. has long accused Pakistan of backing terrorists but has failed to take serious action against Islamabad.
Since the war in Afghanistan began more than 16 years ago, the American government has provided more than $30 billion in aid to Pakistan.
The Trump administration decided to withhold $50 million in outstanding military reimbursements from Pakistan.