Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Aug 2018 10:13:23

AS HE takes charge of his country in a few days’ time, Mr. Imran Khan, the Prime Minister-designate of Pakistan, will have his task cut out -- to deal with the United States. All through his poll campaign Mr. Khan was the most critical voice of United States President Mr. Donald Trump’s stand towards Pakistan and threats of sanctions for its tacit support to terrorist organisations. Mr. Khan’s challenge has begun even before he assumes office as the Trump administration has quietly started pruning a large number of Pakistani officials from its International Military Education and Training programme. This is the first known impact from Mr. Trump’s decision to suspend US security assistance to Pakistan.

The United States has been warning Pakistan against funding and sheltering Islamist terrorist groups since last many years. The then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had, in fact, delivered a sobering message to this effect during his visit to Islamabad a year ago. The IMET educational programmes had been touted as a highlight of bilateral military relations between the two countries. These changed dynamics of Washington’s outlook towards Pakistan can hurt Islamabad really bad.

The US move to cut scores of Pakistan officers from the coveted training programme shows the growing distrust Mr. Trump has developed with Islamabad and its leadership. Pakistan military’s overwhelming support to terror groups, including Taliban in Afghanistan, has been exposed in various forms by intelligence agencies. Despite warning and lurking sanctions for funding terror the Pakistani leadership -- both civil as well as military -- was shrugging off the truth. It is all in the open now and the consequences are staring in their faces.

For years, Pakistan military was overtly dependent on US aid and arms. Washington, too, kept the supply line open for its own benefits in the Asian region. Pakistan always took it for granted and instead of allowing the civic leadership to shore up domestic issues and flagging economy, the all-powerful military bosses used the finances to groom terror groups fighting their proxy war against India. The bluff was called many a time by Indian authorities on top world forums, including the United Nations, but precious little came their way in the form of a strong stand against Pakistan.

The United States action to cut aid and military leadership training now confirms that all the diplomatic exercise New Delhi undertook to expose Pakistan’s unabashed support to terrorism is now reaching the right corners. It is as much a strategic victory for Indian efforts as it is a final warning for Pakistan. This move may further push Pakistan towards its all-weather friend China and Russia for leadership training. It will be on expected lines given the influence Beijing holds on many sectors in Pakistan.

What will be watched with great curiosity is the Russian response to Pakistan overtures especially after the now-famous Helsinki summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Vladimir Putin. Mr. Trump’s kowtowing to Russia has the potential to change many political as well as diplomatic equations between top powers of the world. And given India’s ascending importance in world politics and reset of relations with Russia, it will not be an easy choice for Moscow to openly show its tilt towards Pakistan whose army is set to rule the country through a civilian proxy in Mr. Imran Khan.