Pak's ties with US head south after it scraps bilateral visits
WASHINGTON: Ties between the United States and Pakistan are unraveling very quickly, spiraling south towards a nadir never seen before.
Pakistan this week angrily rejected the proposed visit of two senior US officials to Islamabad to sort out differences after the Trump administration recognized India's stakes in Afghanistan and virtually called Pakistan a terrorist state.
Pakistan also canceled a scheduled trip to Washington DC of its new foreign minister KM Asif at the invitation of the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to signal its fury, even as the Trump administration took Islamabad's tantrums in its stride and demonstrated American capacity to finger a fragile Pakistani economy.
US authorities slapped a $630 million penalty on Pakistan's leading bank Habib Bank Limited for non-compliance with US anti-money laundering laws, forcing it to shut down its US operations.
While hardliners in Islamabad are seeking to pressure US with threats of shutting down American supply routes to landlocked Afghanistan, for the first time, there are hardliners in Washington who want the Trump administration to further tighten the screws and force Pakistan to renounce the use of terrorism and roll up terror groups. Among the steps proposed: Shut down the aid spigot not just from Washington but also from multilateral agencies and western allies, and deny US visas, visits, and access to Pakistani leaders, generals, and officials, and other elites who support or rationalize terrorism.
Wracked by internal turmoil, Islamabad is making no secret of its rage at the Trump administration's bare-knuckled stance that includes warnings about US strikes against terror groups if Pakistan does not wrap them up. The country's Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif himself was quoted as telling lawmakers on Monday that Pakistan had suspended talks and bilateral visits with the United States as a mark of protest over the recent 'anti-Pakistan diatribe' by US President Donald Trump.
Among the officials scheduled to visit Islamabad this week were the Acting US Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells and the Senior Director in the National Security Council Lisa Curtis. Asif was scheduled to go to Washington last week.
Instead, Asif and other Pakistani leaders and officials are huffing to China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other comfort partners to try and make up for the downslide in US ties with Pakistan. The moves are also meant to show that Pakistan has other friends it can lean on, although none of them have put any money where Pakistan's mouth is the way the United States did, ponying up some $30 billion for Islamabad's help in the so-called war on terror.
Perceptive regional analysts deduced a long time ago that Pakistan simply kept the terror tap open so that it could extract more money from the US, but the Trump administration appears to have gotten wise to the con, announcing a whittling down of not just bilateral aid, but also questioning reimbursements to Pakistan for a war on terror it claims to be fighting for its own sake.Watch the Video