Shuja Nawaz – political & strategic analyst and senior fellow at the Atlantic council – while writing for Foreign Affairs argues that Donald Trump’s threats and intimidation are unlikely to affect Pakistan’s policies and behaviour. He further believes that “for Trump, it may feel good to vent his frustrations about Pakistan, especially now that his administration is desperate to salvage something from the United States’ prolonged and losing conflict in Afghanistan. However, these new sanctions are unlikely to influence Pakistani behaviour, which is rooted in realities on the ground that the United States has little ability to change”.
Nawaz believes that Pakistan’s location makes things complicated especially when Islamabad is strategically concerned about containing India along with fighting the Pakistani Taliban. “Pakistan is a complicated country in a tough neighbourhood. Its main strategic concerns are to contain the surging power of its neighbour and rival, India, and to combat Islamist militancy inside its own borders—in particular, it wishes to fight the Pakistani Taliban, which now operates from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Pakistan launched a military operation in 2014 to clear the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of insurgents, including the Pakistani Taliban, many of whom escaped across the border into Afghanistan”, argues Nawaz.
Nawaz also believes that the amount of the US financial assistance, relatively small in numbers, is another reason US threats would have any effect on Pakistan. In this regard, Nawaz writes, “the dwindling and now relatively small amount of financial assistance that the United States currently provides Pakistan is another reason to suspect that its threats will be ineffectual. Pakistani officials have been defiant. Miftah Ismail, the adviser to the prime minister for finance, revenue, and economic affairs, told Reuters, “Aid cuts will not hurt us,” since U.S. aid has been “reduced drastically over the years.” (Annual U.S. aid to Pakistan peaked at about $3.5 billion in 2011, before declining to about $1 billion in 2016.)”
According to Nawaz, Pakistan also holds some of its own leverage against the US. Islamabad, as Nawaz argues, could “cut off the United States’ air- and ground-based supply routes to Afghanistan”. Also, with domestic elections nearing in Pakistan and PML-N ministers making fiery statements on Twitter, Nawaz believes that it will be difficult for the ruling government to make any sort of compromise with Washington. In his conclusion, he argues that in order to deescalate the current tensions between both the countries, it is important that the “discussions between the two be led by diplomats, rather than politicians, so that solutions can be found that build on the two countries’ dependence on one another and serve both of their interests”.
(The article in full article can be found at Foreign Affairs)