The Trump administration’s policy towards Pakistan marks a shift that may well work in India’s favour. Despite repeated representations from India since early days of cross-border terrorism in early 1990s, the US did little to rein in Pakistan’s use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy. But President Donald Trump has indicated time and again that he may change that.
The events of 9/11, followed by 26/11, compelled the US to talk tough against Pakistan, once its Cold War ally that played a key role against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan and in opening a route to China. Yet, tough talking Washington — its growing security ties with India notwithstanding — continued to value its partnership with Pakistan for its Afghan campaign post 9/11
However, with decreasing influence of Pakistani lobby in the US, India’s growing global profile and the US failure to control terrorism in Afghanistan (due to cross- border support from Pakistan) increased the gulf between the Obama administration and Pakistan army. The Obama administration cancelled its earlier decision to sell fighter jets to Pakistan and even temporarily put on hold anti-terror funds.
Enter President Trump and US Pakistan ties touched a new low. The US President, who had declared that he would combat jihadists globally, is acting tough, much to India’s comfort. But experts who have followed Indo-Pak ties point out that Trump’s real test will be in managing various US departments which may want to use the assets in Pakistan in their counter-terrorism campaign. It remains to be seen if Trump walks the talk. The Modi government, drawing lessons from the past, has not hastened to to react to Trump’s tweets.
The Trump administration’s dissatisfaction with Pakistan over its support of Islamic jihadi terrorists operating from Pak territory even found reflection in the US National Security Strategy document, 2017.
Pak criticism in the document marks a tipping point in US-Pak relations, observers say. However, Pak establishment is known to have an uncanny capability to withstand the US pressure. India has to guard against wider use of Pak by China as part of its geopolitical goals.