Tensions between Pakistan and the United States are running high after Donald Trump accused Islamabad of both harbouring terrorists and failing to fight terrorism more widely. Pakistan not only denies these allegations but feels deeply insulted by the United States.
During his announcement of a troop surge in Afghanistan, Donald Trump said the following in respect of Pakistan,
“Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organisations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.
For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen”.
This combined with Trump inviting India whose relations with Pakistan continue to deteriorate under the Hindutva extremist Premiership of Narendra Modi, led to widespread protests throughout Pakistan.
China has come to Pakistan’s defence over Trump’s allegations. A statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry delivered shortly after Trump’s Afghanistan statement reads as follows,
“Pakistan is at the forefront of the counter-terrorism efforts. For many years, it has made positive efforts and great sacrifices for combating terrorism and made important contributions to upholding world peace and regional stability. We believe that the international community should fully recognise the efforts made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism”.
China further stated,
“The Chinese side is actively committed to promoting the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. We always maintain that political dialogue is the only way out for resolving the Afghanistan issue. The international community should support the ‘Afghan-led’ and ‘Afghan-owned’ reconciliation process, support Afghanistan in realising the widespread and inclusive political reconciliation, support the Afghan people in exploring a development path suiting their own national conditions and support the Afghan government in enhancing counter-terrorism capability and combating extreme terrorist forces. We need to attach importance to the important role of Pakistan in the Afghanistan issue and respect the sovereignty and legitimate security concerns of Pakistan. The Chinese side is willing to maintain communication and coordination with the United States on the Afghanistan issue and make concerted efforts for achieving the peace and stability of Afghanistan and the region at large”.
Shortly thereafter, Russian Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov made a statement that many consider to be Moscow’s official defence of Pakistan. He said,
“Putting pressure [on Pakistan] may seriously destabilise the region-wide security situation and result in negative consequences for Afghanistan”.
The aggregate effect of Pakistan’s diplomatic self-defence with China and Russia clearly taking Islamabad’s side has resulted in Pakistan officially postponing a planned visit by US Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells that was due to take place this week.
While both the United States and Pakistan blame scheduling issues, a more frank assessment of things comes from Pakistan Today. Pakistan Today quotes a member of the ruling PML-N who stated the following annonymously
“We have sacrificed our lives while fighting the terrorists; we have suffered financial, infrastructural and institutional destruction but still we are being blamed by our so-called strategic partners. It’s about time we rethink our policies.
Moreover, since sentiments of betrayal are running deep at the moment, the aggrieved party feels it’s not appropriate to hold a dialogue. Hence, Pakistan has asked for the postponement of the visit”.
“This [Trump’s invitation to India] despite our repeated complaints of Indian use of Afghan soil to create instability in Pakistan. We have shared vital information about this effect. We believe India cannot be the net security provider in South Asia region, as it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbours, and is pursuing a policy of destabilising Pakistan from the east and the west”.
With the support of China and Russia, Pakistan can increasingly live without US economic initiatives. As a result, Pakistan’s leaders are standing firmly against remarks by Donald Trump which are both insulting and provocative and in respect of India, a threat to Pakistan’s strategic security interests.