Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Aug 2017 12:08:15

US President Mr. Donald Trump, by issuing a strong warning to Pakistan, asking it to desist from supporting terrorists in Afghanistan and, seeking India’s help in the task by assigning it a strategic role in the region, has charted a new course in war on terror in the region. The outcome of the new US strategy would of course solely depend on how seriously Pakistan takes the US warning and whether Mr. Trump would match his words with action if Pakistan fails to deliver. 

It would be in the interest of Pakistan to take the US warning seriously and stop supporting terror networks. Because, the US, which has been taken for a ride by Pakistan for long, is finally losing its patience, if the strong words used by Mr. Trump in his speech is any indication. “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting. But that will have to change and that will change immediately”, Mr. Trump said in his characteristic style.

However, there are players other than the US, India and Pakistan also, who have a keen interest in Afghanistan’s affairs vis-a-vis the US policy. Therefore, much depends on what stand Russia and China will take with regard to the new US policy, as both have deep strategic interests in the region. China has supported its ‘all-weather friend’ Pakistan after the US warning, stating that it has been on the forefront fighting terror. There is a danger of Pakistan moving closer to Russia and China, worsening the situation in the region in the wake of the new US policy. While China has supported Pakistan on all fronts, military cooperation between Pakistan and Russia is also growing strong, raising concerns in Delhi.

Afghanistan of course, has welcomed the new US strategy as it is not in a position to take on Taliban, Haqqani and other terror networks on its own. So, there is no other option before Afghanistan than to seek US help in fighting terror groups.

But India, which has welcomed Mr. Trump’s determination to take on terror outfits, will have to tread cautiously, instead of getting exhilarated. India is contributing in rebuilding Afghanistan by undertaking developmental projects like road construction, setting up schools, hospitals, besides providing scholarships to Afghanistani students. What role the US wants India to play now is not clear. It must be noted that Mr. Trump has also referred to India’s trade balance with the US while seeking its cooperation as a key economic partner.

While it would be interesting to see whether Pakistan heeds to the warning issued by the US and stops providing safe havens to the terrorists or not, what is sure is that it will make renewed efforts to poke India by raising Kashmir issue and try to convince US that it was the ‘root cause’ of tension in the region. India will not only have to counter Pakistan’s propaganda, but also have to convince those in the US administration, who still feel that a tough stand against Pakistan by the US would be counter productive.

Pakistan has so far managed hoodwink the US and get massive financial aid packages in the name of fighting terror despite India raising concerns with the US. However, if the new Afghanistan policy is any indication, Mr. Trump seems to have been convinced now that there is no point in providing billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan. Hence the ‘final’ warning by Mr. Trump.

The moot point is, whether Pakistan will see the writing on the wall and stop supporting terror networks in Afghanistan immediately. And, will Mr. Trump match his words with action, if Pakistan still continues to provide safe haven to militants?