- Trying to retune its ties with Pakistan
By Jai Kumar Verma
New Delhi. 03 November 2022. On 21 October the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has taken out Pakistan from its ‘Grey List”. FATF issued a statement that “Pakistan is no longer subject to FATF’s increased monitoring process; to continue to work with APG (Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering) to further improve its AML/CFT (anti-money laundering & counter-terrorist financing) system”. Pakistan was put in grey list of FATF in 2018 as it failed to check the financial assistance to terrorist outfits. As the country was in FATF’s grey list Islamabad was not getting financial assistance from International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development bank (ADB), World Bank, European Union, and other financial institutions. At present Pakistan’s economy is passing from a critical phase and it needed urgent financial assistance.
Pakistan’s track record is so dismal that in past meetings of FATF it was saved by China, Turkey, and Malaysia from downgrading to ‘Black List’. But in the current meeting United States, United Kingdom and other western countries supported Islamabad hence it instead of slipping to black list it came out from grey list. India sharply reacted to the exit of Pakistan from grey list. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi stated, “We understand that Pakistan will continue to work with the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) to further improve its Anti Money Laundering (AML) /Counter Terror Financing (CFT) system.” He also reiterated that “As a result of FATF scrutiny, Pakistan has been forced to take some action against well-known terrorists, including those involved in attacks against the entire international community in Mumbai on 26/11”.
Pakistan lobbied hard to come out from the grey list. In the latest meeting of FATF, China, US and other western countries supported Pakistan. China blocked the blacklisting of Hafiz Talah Saeed leader of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (L-e-T) and son of L-e-T Chief Hafiz Saeed. China rescued Pakistan five times in four months in United Nations.
Both China and US have declared each other as their main adversaries but they supported Pakistan albeit with different motives. China considers India as its prospective challenger hence it wants to weaken India. China’s long-term policy is the containment of India and China is using Pakistan to achieve this. All Chinese weapons, missiles and platforms are against India. China is Pakistan’s biggest bilateral creditor and invested huge sum in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan claims that it has all weather strategic partnership with China.
Besides helping Pakistan in FATF, US also helped Islamabad in getting IMF loan. Pakistani Finance Minister Miftah Ismail claimed that IMF sanctioned $1.7 billion loan and also extended the programme for a year more. US ambassador in Pakistan visited Pak Occupied Kashmir and called it as Azad Kashmir.
Recently US approved $450 million to service Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets although India objected for the same. US wants to keep Pakistan army happy as several times civil administration speaks against US but Pakistan army always maintained cordial relations with US.
Both US and Pakistan share intelligence on Afghanistan. This time US left Afghanistan but its intelligence organisations are monitoring the developments in Afghanistan as US administration does not trust the present Taliban regime. US intelligence agencies are keeping eye on Afghanistan through Pakistan and extermination of al Qaeda Chief Zawahiri is proof of it. Afghan government has US designated terrorists but US is not taking any action against them because of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.
On the other hand, Islamabad also getting US assistance in curbing the rising terrorist activities of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as the outfit made hundreds of lethal attacks on Pakistani security forces. TTP fighters are residing in border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. TTP which is known as Pakistani Taliban are getting support from Afghan Taliban.
President Biden has fascination for Pakistan and its army. In 2008 Pakistan awarded US Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden and Republican Senator Richard Lugar ‘Hilal-i-Pakistan’ which is the second highest award in Pakistan. In 2011 Biden as Vice President went to meet Pakistan army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kyani to Rawalpindi, which is unprecedented. In November 2015 Biden as Vice President invited Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif in White House.
Pakistan supplied ammunition to Ukraine through C-17 Globemaster of Royal Air Force of United Kingdom. Pakistan took the risk of anger of Russia to please US.
In October 2022, General Qamar Javed Bajwa Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan made a five-day visit to US. The visit was few weeks before his scheduled retirement. Although few analysts claimed that Bajwa visited US as he wanted to ascertain US reaction before getting one more extension. Strong critics of Bajwa claimed that as he had close relations with US since he became Army Chief in November 2016 and he wanted the blessings of US before overthrowing the present civilian government.
Nonetheless the visit of General Bajwa was to reset the ties between both the countries which were damaged badly by former Prime Minister Imran Khan as he continuously blamed US for ousting him from prime ministership. Bajwa also visited Saudi Arabia after removal of Imran Khan as the ties between both the countries were damaged during his prime ministership.
In the current visit Bajwa reassured US that relations between both the countries would remain cordial even after he relinquishes the post of Chief of Army Staff. He also took Chief of General Staff Lt. General Azhar Abbas who is among the six important frontrunners for the coveted post of Chief of army staff. General Bajwa also introduced Lt. General Abbas to important dignitaries in Washington DC. Bajwa met US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and discussed important issues pertaining to defence. Bajwa emphasised that Pakistan is a trusted and tested friend of US and cordial relations would benefit both the countries.
Bilawal Bhutto foreign minister of Pakistan also met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly session in September this year. In the meeting he reaffirmed about the assistance of $56.5 million for flood relief as well as the additional $ 10 million of food security.
Although now Washington is also interested in repairing ties with Islamabad but there is a trust deficit as US felt cheated in Afghanistan when overtly Pakistan was helping US but covertly assisting various terrorist groups in Afghanistan especially Haqqani network. These terrorist outfits were attacking US led NATO troops.
Even when the relations between US and Pakistan deteriorated the cooperation between defence forces of both the countries continued as most of arms, ammunition and platforms in Pakistan defence forces are of US origin. Large number of senior officers of Pakistan defence forces have personal interests in US.
The national security strategy of US released in October 2022 classified China as the main threat to the country. Hence US is trying to undermine China and for that it considers India as an important partner but as India follows an independent foreign policy hence Washington is also trying to retune its ties from Islamabad and wants to dilute China Pakistan relations. The annual bilateral trade between US and Pakistan is around $6 billion and US is Islamabad’s biggest trade partner while China is the largest state investor in Pakistan. Hence US wants to have cordial relations with Pakistan but it does not want to replace China as in that case US has to put very large amount in Pakistan.
Washington has appointed Donald Armin Blome as US ambassador in Pakistan in April 2022. The post was vacant since 2018. Not only this members of Congress and several high-ranking US officials also visited Islamabad. In April General Bajwa stated that Islamabad has “excellent” relations with US and Pakistan receives best military equipment from US. Pakistan from several years was getting financial assistance, supply of defence equipment, training from US and now when it is passing from grave financial crisis Islamabad wants all types of help from US.
Biden’s recent statement that Pakistan “may be one of the most dangerous nations in the world” should not please much to Indian analysts. India should inculcate self-reliance as both China and US is assisting Pakistan which is India’s sworn enemy and has waged a low-intensity war against India. Delhi should not look for short-term solutions but should plan long-term strategy. At present world is passing from a turmoil. Russian Ukraine war is continuing, Taiwan is in danger, animosity between US and China is increasing, Prime Minister of UK had to resign within 45 days. World suffered economic disaster because of Corona virus and several countries are facing economic disaster. Hence India should emphasise on ‘Make in India’ programme and should make sincere efforts to produce more and more weapons, arms, and ammunition so that it can lessen its import of defence items. India should also enhance its defence export so that it can achieve its target of export of defence items worth $4.87 billion by 2025.
(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and Life member of United Services Institute of India and member of Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at [email protected])