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Trump’s Twitter attack against Pakistan has escalated into severing $1.3 billion in aid — and it could backfire

The US did not take strong action against Pakistan when it mattered. Today, Islamabad has alternative allies to fall back on after Trump’s Twitter rant.

US President Donald Trump’s lashing out at Pakistan on Twitter on January 1 and the consequent deterioration of relation between the two old allies has been the high point of international politics in the year which has just begun.

Trump’s accusing Pakistan of “lies” and “deceit” and the charges that it has given the US nothing in lieu of the massive help it has received is not something that contradicts the reality but the problem is that it is far too late for the American leadership to catch hold of Pakistan now.

The way Islamabad has hit back at the Americans, despite the fact that its own leadership is in a state of fragility, reveals how much hollow Trump’s roar has sounded. Trump can rip Pakistan another hundred times during his tenure but it won’t mark any difference in the latter’s stand for sure. Because not only times have changed, they have gone against the United States.

If the US indeed feels that Pakistan has only deceived it over the years, it should have taken action against Islamabad at least a decade and half ago, just in the wake of the 9/11. But its own policy failure in Afghanistan had kept it engaged with Pakistan despite the latter’s double games.

Just as Washington had taken Islamabad’s help to keep the erstwhile Soviets at bay in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and 1980s, it tried something similar to fight the extremist elements in Afghanistan post 9/11. But the US overlooked the fact that Pakistan had a far bigger stake in Afghanistan this time and it only grew more complex as India’s role in Afghanistan grew.

For the Pakistani state, backing the extremists’ agenda in Afghanistan has always been key to counter India’s influence there and ensure its own survival. This put it at odds with the US but the double-ploy scheme continued somehow over the last decade and half.

Trump’s outburst against Pakistan is the culmination of the frustration that was gathering in the US ranks over the past few presidencies over Islamabad’s dubious stance on Afghanistan and terror. But the reaction came far too late and would fetch the US little results because of two main reasons. Pakistan has powers to fall back on today.

First, international politics at the moment is not as unipolar as it was in the wake of
9/11. While the Americans have started to stagnate in foreign policy post the Iraq war of 2003 and under the current Trump presidency, other powers like China and Russia have come up fast to fill in the vacuum.

This has given countries like Pakistan a major opportunity to find alternative allies in case its old ally dumps it. In fact, Washington’s brazen foreign policy under Trump has made it easier for Pakistan to find solidarity from many other countries. The American president’s unconventional handling of diplomacy is not going to make his targets crawl. Pakistan also plays the victim card today with success.

The second reason why Pakistan is not going to take Trump seriously is its own vulnerability to terror. The country was once considered a major supporter of terror – something that made its neighbours like India, Afghanistan and Iran raise their voices against it. India particularly has always been expressing concern against Pakistan on international stages, accusing it of sponsoring terror in its territory.

However, Pakistan of late has found a new stance to defend itself against such accusations, thanks to some devastating terror attacks on soft targets like educational institutes and churches on its own soil.

These terror attacks have been results of nothing else but Islamabad’s own policy failure but Pakistan’s leaders have encashed these instances of violence to buy sympathy internationally. Now, whenever countries like the US and India try to accuse Pakistan of sponsoring terror elsewhere, Islamabad counters the viewpoint saying it itself has been the biggest victim of terror.

Its all-weather friend China also chips in, asking the world to take note of Pakistan’s “sacrifices”. This convenient change of stance by Pakistan is also another reason why Trump’s anger will succeed little in penetrating Islamabad’s defence. Nothing sells more than spilling of human
blood and the emotions attached to it and the wily leaders know how to make use of them as a national defence.

Trump’s outburst was more of a protest against past US leaderships and that weakens US’ stance
Trump’s outburst on Twitter also establishes another fact. His angry reaction was more of a protest against his own country’s policy vis-à-vis Pakistan over the years. The current American president has done all he can to show that he is not a continuity of the past and cares little for political correctness when it comes it his love for his motherland.

He thus rubbishes the US’s policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan within a span of five months (he had articulated his policy on Afghanistan on August 21 last year when also he had blasted Pakistan and sought more role for India in the war-ravaged nation) more as a denunciation of his predecessors’ stands but Trump doesn’t understand the fact that diplomacy is not something that
can be revolutionised overnight.

The Americans have pampered Pakistan for their own interests over the last seven decades and then one fine morning, their president realises that nothing has been done on the ground and declares a U-turn. It only weakens America in Afghanistan because it can’t really succeed there without a serious cooperation from Islamabad.

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