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September 19, 2017

US moves closer to designating Pakistan a terrorist state


Highlights
  • Islamabad readies tit-for-tat measures, may block access for Nato supplies to Afghanistan.
  • Pakistan has also warned that it will not buy any more F-16s from the US.
  • The Trump administration has indicated it has more weapons up its sleeve.
Pakistan has indicated it might go for broke against the United States with ties between the two countries reaching a new low.

Enraged at being called out by President Trump for nurturing terrorist groups, Islamabad is said to have devised a ''three-option toughest diplomatic policy,'' including an extreme case scenario where it will block access for US and Nato military supplies to land-locked Afghanistan.

Actions prior to this will include, according to the Pakistani media, limiting diplomatic relations with US and reducing mutual cooperation on terrorism-related issues and non-cooperation in US strategy for Afghanistan.

Pakistan has also warned that it will not buy any more F-16s from the US, and will lean towards China in the future.
Small problem for Pakistan: Washington is not about to blink.

After giving Pakistan a taste of the kind of financial vulnerability it is under by banning operations in the US of Habib Bank, the country's leading financial institution, for regulatory violations, the Trump administration has indicated it has more weapons up its sleeve.

Among them: Stripping Pakistan of the status of a non-Nato ally, cutting off all aid, imposing travel ban on suspected ISI personnel in the US operating undercover, and finally, formal designation of Pakistan as a terrorist state.

Withdrawal of non-Nato ally status and designating it a terrorist state would limit weapons sales and probably affect billions of dollars in IMF and World Bank loans, along with access to global finance, the Financial Times reported over the weekend.

Pakistan partisans in the US have long argued that the country is ''too big to fail'' and applying too much pressure on it will push it into China's arms, but the Trump administration appears to have reckoned that the country is already firmly in the Chinese camp, and Beijing can do little to stave off a financial meltdown if Washington decides to put the squeeze on a country whose elites have greater affinity for London and New York than for Beijing.

Talk of a western visa ban terrifies Pakistani military and political elites such as General Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif who own prime property and camp out in the west whenever things get too hot at home.

Pakistan bravado in threatening to cut off US access to Afghanistan came ahead of a possible meeting of its new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi with vice-president Mike Pence in New York on sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

President Trump appears to have little time or patience with a country whose proliferation activities are being recalled again following North Korea's aggravations in the nuclear and ballistic missile sphere.

Even the State Department, whose bureaucrats have long advocated a cautious line on Pakistan fearing its collapse and a "loose nukes" scenario appear to have fallen in line with the White House's get-tough policy stemming from Islamabad's continuing perfidy regarding using terrorism as a policy instrument.

''Some who recall being beguiled by late nights spent with military and civilian leaders over Johnnie Walker Blue Label — the expensive whisky beloved by Pakistan's elite in the officially dry country — say even forceful private conversations regularly disappoint,'' the FT noted in a report, quoting James Dobbins, special envoy in 2013-14 saying, ''It's very difficult to deal with an interlocutor who says he agrees with you but actually doesn't.''

On Pakistani television, some talking heads and anchors are now discussing the imminent collapse of the country's economy if US puts the squeeze in Islamabad.

Pakistanis are also stunned that many reports now rank Bangladesh, which broke away from Pakistan in 1971, ahead of it in several economic metrics, including exports and foreign exchange reserves. But the country's hardline nationalists and fantasists believe China, and perhaps even Russia, will come to its rescue.

 timesofindia

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