The military-controlled Imran Khan regime in Pakistan is terribly anguished today following the embarrassing delivery of a lethal mix — American cancellation of the committed $ 300 million aid to this rogue state over its deliberate inaction against the rampaging killer hordes of terrorists operating from its soil and the signing of an Indo-US long-negotiated COMCASA defence pact that will allow India to buy the much-needed sensitive American military equipment. While Washington views this accord, which will be held annually, as a “milestone” in Indo-US relations, New Delhi asserts that “the pact will greatly enhance India’s defence capability and preparedness”.

Despite facing this humiliation, Pakistan appears defiant and non-apologetic about the policy that Washington reprimands and penalises it for. It claims what has been cancelled “was not an aid, but reimbursement for its role in US war on terror… The $ 300 million is neither aid nor assistance — it is the money Pakistan spent from its resources against militants and in the war against terrorism. This is the money they (the US) are supposed to reimburse, but now either they are not willing or unable to pay back”, says Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. While at this point it is not possible to ascertain who is right, the fact remains that by this strong US action, Pakistan has been put to a grave loss and humiliation.

China goes deeper in ‘colonising’ Pakistan

It is understandable that the 2+2 dialogue, in which External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman participated with US officials, has generated extreme insecurity in Islamabad because its traditional (Cold War) ally US is now cementing its ties with India, its bitter enemy in the subcontinent. Pakistan is convinced now that the US under Trump has gone “very close” to India because of its own persistent double dealing with the superpower for decades. Islamabad has had the temerity to defy the US clearly under the influence of China, another powerful neighbour deeply inimical to India. China has almost colonised Pakistan through the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor and its multiple projects in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which India claims as its own territory. CPSU is a big shot in the arm for Pakistan which is intended to rapidly modernise the Islamic state’s infrastructure and strengthen its economy through the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones.

CPEC is partly operational now after Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia. Some major power projects were also commissioned last year. Though the US doesn’t speak about this, except making some casual reference to the Sino-Pak nexus, it’s apparently not happy with this ‘Chinese colonisation of Pakistan’. That appears to be another reason why US proximity to India has become a natural occurrence. But since the complex global alliances are strategically built or dismantled, depending on the nations’ ethnic, economic, geopolitical or other advantages, no one knows how stable is the current US relationship with India.

Beijing instils aggression in Pakistan

Since military-controlled Islamabad has lived through waves of insecurity caused by four tragic wars with India since the Partition, it finds survival impossible without a strong, strategic defence partner being on its side. This is a miserable situation for Pakistan which looks terribly squeezed by dragon today, merely for the reason that it needs its “material and moral support” in its dispute with New Delhi. China, no doubt, has created vast avenues of development in Pakistan, yet the latter’s sovereignty will remain at stake in times to come when dragon spreads its claws further into the Pakistani interiors. Lately, Beijing came to Islamabad’s rescue umpteen times even at the United Nations where India’s moves for NSG and UNSC (permanent) memberships were repeatedly stalled by China.

Not only that, China even chose to stand by vicious Pakistani terrorists at the UN. Thus, the defence- economic alliance with China, looks natural to Pakistan leaders as the former has its own long- standing, intractable dispute with India. Even though China has very close trade links with India and has beneficially set foot on its vast market for thousands of its products, they also have their share of occasional skirmishes on the disputed border. Recently, there was one at Doklam. Strategically, this suits Pakistan.

Trump forcing Pak to bring Taliban for peace talks

Trump’s policy is absolutely clear with no ambiguity in sight. His actions aim at creating an environment of extreme insecurity in Pakistan. India’s growing ties with the US is one. In a way, Trump has corrected its policy towards “this treacherous Pakistan”. Why should America fall for a rogue state that produce killer terrorists and export them overseas? Pakistan has been causing mayhem and bloodshed in India through its proxy war since the eighties in the name of Kashmir. It has consistently defied the US and aggressively worked against its “counselling” for a long time, even as it got hefty liberal, ameliorative aids. Trump says he has to “secure America’s global interests everywhere”. His administration is sending a tough message to Pakistan that it is being punished for displaying “irresponsible, deceitful behaviour of duplicity and chicanery.”

Right, this much bad and a cautious warning comes from Trump to Pakistan to improve its future conduct, but the things are not rosy for India either. India’s ties with the US too have their irritants. For instance, American sanctions against Russia and Iran. India needs to have sweet relations with both of them to reap benefits out of their myriad offers. But the US has its reservations on this “developing contiguity”. In the light of this development, India will have to be very careful in managing these ties that run in diverse directions.

India not scared of sanctions from ‘friendly US’

Despite significant US support on defence front, India also faces irritants on account of the Amerian law that imposes sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea. India proposes to strengthen its military partnership with Russia and improve trade ties with Afghanistan via the Chabahar port in Iran. In his bid to punish Russia, Iran and North Korea, Trump signed a law, ‘The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ (CAATSA), imposing sanctions on these three countries. A section of the Act mandates secondary sanctions on those who conduct significant transactions with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors. India which is one of the largest military partners of Russia, is likely to face problems as this law is aimed at punishing Russia for its “transgression” in Crimea, its involvement in Syrian civil war and the alleged dubious role in the US presidential elections.

However, despite US sanctions, India is determined to press ahead with the procurement of five regiments of Russian-made S-400 Triumf advanced Air Defence Systems which our military sees as vital for the country’s defence capability. These systems counter ballistic missiles and stealth aircraft which China is presently developing and which, defence experts say, “will push up war capabilities of Pakistan to an exceptionally high level.” But what will happen if US applies its law to punish India as well, because of its massive purchases from Russia, a country already under sanctions? India being strategically an ‘important ally’ of the US in the current global scenario may not be subjected to sanctions, but here the rider remains that Washington enforces its laws very strictly. The Narendra Modi government believes that as an honest, responsible global power, New Delhi will certainly be an exception against American sanctions, earning waver, when it comes to militarily strengthening India, its key strategic defence partner in the region.

Iran’s Chabahar port vital for India’s interests

Likewise, India’s prospects will also be impacted in Iran’s Chabahar port which is being developed as part of a new transport corridor for land-locked Afghanistan which may use it as a massive trade point cutting its dependence on hostile Pakistan. This port will also offer an opportunity to India to mine and export iron ore from two tracts at the Hajigak iron mine in central Afghanistan. Chabahar will enable Kabul to consolidate its ties with India and allow the latter to get more involved in Afghanistan’s economic development, bypassing Pakistan. But US sanctions substantially affect the viability of Chabahar in which India has invested almost half a billion dollars. New Delhi will reap great dividends by consolidating its foothold in a crucial maritime zone of this region. However, it is hoped the US will not chastise India for two reasons: It is America’s major strategic partner in this region where China is known to be expanding its hegemony and then it is also a major buyer of American defence systems and equipment.

Not caring much for US sanctions, China decides to use oil tankers from Iran for its purchases of Iranian crude, providing Tehran a lifeline even as European companies start leaving fearing Washington reprisal. The US is trying to halt Iranian oil exports in its bid to force Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear deal to reduce its influence in the Middle East. China, which has cut imports of US crude in the midst of a trade war with Washington, says it is against unilateral sanctions and will defend its commercial ties with Iran. China, Iran’s biggest oil customer, looks determined to keep buying Iranian crude, despite the sanctions.

Hunt for parity with India from Bhutto days

Pakistan’s pain arises from its illusive presumption that it must have parity with India at all times and on all fronts. For instance, late Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had pledged in the wake of the 1965 Indo-Pak war that “My country won’t be left behind” and that “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.” Bhutto’s remark, seeking parity with India, emerged from his feeling of deep insecurity vis-a-vis India and reflected an existential crisis in his mind which overpowered his psyche and forced him to go abnormally nuclear to create a “permanent threat” for New Delhi.

In fact, consecutive Pakistani rulers, playing to the tunes of military Generals, took advantage of fluid, not- so-stable American policies since the Cold War days that relied on Islamabad and kept its perfidies in the backroom. After the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, though they ambitiously shopped for the ‘Islamic Bomb’ in Europe and enriched uranium too, the US rulers strangely chose to ignore Islamabad’s unusual nuclear build-up. The then US President Ronald Reagan had even publicly stated that “Pakistan did not possess a nuclear bomb.” Not only that, he even said to confuse the global opinion that America was playing neutral without being tilted to any side in the regional war of attrition. Finally, “It is none of our business”, remarked Reagan, knowing it fully well that Islamabad was frantically trying to build a massive destructive nuclear power, clearly beyond its “need and financial capability”, not even caring for its fledgling economy that was in tatters.

Reagan created jihad in Pakistan?

But why was the US President so supportive of Pakistan in its evil, patently destructive chase? Ostensibly, because Reagan wanted Congress to clear “funds for jihad” to torment the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. In his relentless pursuit of his none-too-civilised-and-fair Kabul Policy, the US President shrugged all New Delhi concerns and protests, though he probably believed that a jihadi Pakistan, enriched with imposing atomic power, would turn an uncontrollable killer dinosaur in the near future.

Now that Americans as superpower overlords have landed themselves in a zone of total frustration, having unsuccessfully fought almost two-decade-long exhausting war in Afghanistan, they at least have a clearer picture of this rogue state and where it stands slotted in the company of other villainous scrotes. American biggies are now bewildered with the extent of Pakistani treachery it has displayed over the years after being regularly armed to fight its war in Afghanistan through insurgents. That is why President Donald Trump sent his US secretary of State Mike Pompeo to first drop by in Islamabad to meet the new Political leadership and heap embarrassment for their signal failure to muzzle dangerous terrorists on the prowl, before flying to New Delhi for the inaugural two-plus-two dialogue, which carries substantial, strategic giveaways. In Pakistan, “Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.”

Pakistan may face more US ‘coercive’ actions

Trump looks apparently punitive to the deceitful, Machiavellian Pakistan that consistently fooled the US under different Presidents whom Trump calls “failures”. Now, he wants to clamp down Pakistan by some still severer, more ‘coercive’ and unstated penal actions. Trump’s temperament is not just to stop half way in realising his objectives, although he gets flak for many of his acts that lack foresight and clarity. He even partially dismantled some programmes initiated by Democrat Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, which many Americans viewed as “progressive”.

The fact that Pompeo, accompanied by Defence Secretary James Mattis, strongly chided the Pakistani rulers for continued inaction or little act to bring dangerous terrorists, including marauding Talibanis, to book as part of America’s South Asia Strategy, closely on the heels of cancellation of the vital remaining $ 300 million aid to Pakistan, shows Trump’s determination to muzzle this aberrant rogue state. The US Defence Department made it clear that the stalled amount would now be spent on “other urgent priorities”, subject to approval by Congress. This amount is in addition to the $ 500 million from Coalition Support Funds, already withheld earlier this year, taking Pakistan’s net loss to $ 800 million.

Series of actions failed to deter Islamabad

President Trump’s anger had reflection in the series of actions the US took to pressure Pakistan into “behaving”. First, it slapped travel restrictions on Pakistan diplomats working at the embassy in Washington. In a US-pushed move, Financial Action Task Force “grey-listed” Pakistan over its role in financing global terror. Then, Pakistani officers were scrapped from a coveted training and educational programme, which had served US-Pak military relations for over a decade. Perhaps goaded by China, Pakistan also took some retaliatory action, which made the US still more aggressive against “Pakistani misadventures”. Although the US realises that it “needs Pakistan’s help in encouraging, persuading, pressuring Taliban to come to the negotiating table,” Trump is no more willing to pamper the rogue state in its misdeeds.