It was just a tweet – about 50 words but it literally caused a mini earthquake in India and Pakistan. Here is a President saying the exact truth without any diplomatese. But that has always been his style and character.
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
But if India and Indians are sensible, everyone starting from the Government of Narendra Modi to ordinary Indians raving and ranting in forums and twitter should hold back the champagne bottle. It is too early.
Let us look at some specifics re the run up to this tweet.
- It is no big secret that Pakistan has been double crossing United States for decades now. Ground level commanders, senior Army generals, CIA heads, Defence secretaries and so many analysts and strategic experts of all shades have said exactly this for years. Even Hillary Clinton’s famous snake in backyard remark is well known.
- Yet US governments, over years, kept pumping funds into Pakistan, essentially funding terror against their own soldiers and citizens as well those of allies including Afghanistan and India, to the tune of $33b. We know the count.
- The excuse was that Pakistan was necessary for supply routes and the China factor. Pakistan learnt to perfect this form of blackmail to a fine art and learnt to issue statements that will immediately set cash registers ringing with new aid. Its ministers even openly “threaten” to go with the Russians or Chinese.
- If “liberal” governments are in power this blackmail took on other forms – “Apre moi la deluge” theme where essentially Pakistan puts a gun to its own head and blackmails the POTUS for funds to spend on terror. Even this was well known but no one dared to say “be my guest, go ahead and fire the bullet”. Of course, Pakistan would never try this trick with a conservative President.
So have things really changed?
No doubt Trump is a very different President with very different ideas on how to use the power of the seat to get things done. He owes nothing to no one and is his own man. Unlike other career politicians, he has been remarkably consistent for decades on most core aspects of his policy as well as personality. His 18 year old interview on North Korea which he recently re-tweeted is just one such case in point.
Yet it pays to be cautious.
For one, Trump’s mercurial personality can cut both ways. Once again the China-NK tweets offer clues. After blowing hot on China, he immediately went soft, without getting anything in return other than empty words.
Secondly, Pakistan has been there, done that. It knows how to work the system.
The only difference is now we have Modi in control and he is not going to give any room for Pakistan to wiggle from Indian perspective – the pressure will be on. A left controlled UPA by now would be shedding tears for its long lost brother and rush to its rescue.
We have to look for clear, incontrovertible evidence of ACTION not just words. If Trump says “It’s only words, and words are all I have”, we should be ready not to give our hearts away.
The action can take many forms
- Best of course, is a clear military deadline to the generals. The “bomb back to stone age” threat of Bush administration shortly after the 9/11 incident type. And a few bombs to be sure it is heard and understood.
- Hold back aid beyond the peanuts $255 million that is being bandied about.
- Firm message to China to stay clear and not queer the pitch or face other actions.
- Strong ground action in the Af-Pak border that puts some teeth to the words
- Actively work with India and Iran perhaps, on Plan B.
We will watch the space with considerable interest but equal measure of skepticism.
Special note addendum:
The “fall in China’s lap” blackmail
As we noted earlier, Pakistan, over the years has perfected the art of blackmailing Uncle Sam. One such technique is the threat to “fall in China’s lap”. This is often used as excuse by pro-Pak establishment shills within and outside USA to write even bigger cheques without asking for value in return.
This if fake. Pakistan is already in China’s lap. Only Uncle Sam was paying the bills! That’s taking art of cuckolding to Jupiter’s escape velocity, as Pandit Rahul Gandhi might put it!
Perhaps when China is asked to pay the bills, which is known to be extremely reluctant to do, calculators will be out and new approaches emerge. Can’t be any worse than what it already is, at least for India.