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Ahsan Iqbal warns US against unilateral action on Pakistani soil

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News Analysis |

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal warned the US against any unilateral action on its soil while giving an interview to CNN on Tuesday night. Iqbal said any one sided offensive by the US against Pakistan will be a red line for the relations of the two countries. The interior minister reiterated that Pakistan will not be bullied or coerced into action and Pakistan will give a befitting response to any conspiracies planned against it.

While talking to CNN, Ahsan Iqbal highlighted Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terror. “Pakistan has lost 60,000 lives and suffered from over $25 billion losses in the war against terror over the past few years,” Iqbal told CNN. He said that the aid given by the US is only a nominal amount of the losses incurred by Pakistan. The interior minister expressed Pakistan’s desire to have linkages with the US based on mutual trust and respect.

They have already shown in interest in becoming part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). If Pakistan can engage its allies and neighbours to work together, it might end its reliance on US aid.

Speaking about the Afghanistan issue, Iqbal said that Pakistan and Afghanistan are geographically connected, and it is necessary for the US to work with Pakistan for peace in Afghanistan. He regretted that the US was blaming Pakistan for the failures of Afghanistan even though no country has suffered more from the war in Afghanistan than Pakistan.

Read more: Ahsan Iqbal and Chaudhry Nisar clash over visa policy

“We need to have [a] military option but also a political option. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns and interests must be incorporated in the approach that we follow in that region,” Iqbal proposed as the solution to the Afghan problem. He underscored the importance of a comprehensive approach while finding a solution to the Afghan war.

Iqbal highlighted the importance of bilateral trade for the US and Pakistan and said that Pakistan wants trade with the US, not aid. He ended the interview by saying that Pakistan does not fight for aid or financial assistance but for the safety and security of Pakistanis. It was said in response to the US allegations that Pakistan takes aid from the US but doesn’t give any results in return.

Iran can offer Pakistan a route to the natural resources rich countries of Central Asia. It would be beneficial for both countries since Iran is also facing the wrath of the US and fears sanction. Turkey might also be willing to increase its trade with Pakistan through Iran.

The Trump Administration Proposes $336 Million of Civil and Military Aid to Pakistan

The US President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed a civil and military budget of $336 million to Pakistan for the fiscal year of 2019. It will start from 1st October 2018. The Trump administration believes that financial assistance to Pakistan will help defeat Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS).

The US had earlier blocked almost $2 billion in military assistance to Pakistan over the allegations that Pakistan is providing safe havens to terrorists. They have assured that they will resume the military aid as soon as Pakistan agrees to collaborate with the US against fighting terrorists. The condition of the new aid is the same as the old one, that Pakistan must take action against terrorist havens.

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Political experts believe that the aid to Pakistan is allocated in every fiscal budget of the US but if the administration decides not to release it, it will be of no use to Pakistan. The economic experts have proposed that Pakistan should seek new avenues for trade and not focus of aid, as iterated by the Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

Some media experts report the recent visit by Turkish and Iranian ambassador to Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa were efforts to secure more financial opportunities. Interestingly, the foreign minister of Uzbekistan also met the JCS General Zubair Mahmood Hayat on the same day.

They believe that to strengthen relations between US and Pakistan, there is a need to create interdependence, while there is interdependence in the form of military collaboration, long term relations can only be ensured with mutual trade.  Agriculture is the biggest industry of Pakistan, we can increase our exports to the US, and on the other hand, we can export technology and experts from the US to help us in the IT sector.

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Pakistan still fears unilateral action against the US according to strategic experts but they are unsure about the red line drawn by the interior minister since drone attacks by the US are considered unilateral action. They have termed them as an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan since drones enter the territory of Pakistan and hit militants on our soil. Many innocents are also killed in those attacks. It is unclear that at what point Pakistan will decide that the attacks will not be tolerated and a response will be given.

The economic experts have proposed that Pakistan should seek new avenues for trade and not focus of aid, as iterated by the Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

Owing to the block of aid by the US, Pakistan is reportedly seeking other avenues to increase trade and sustain the cost of Pakistan’s war against terror. Some media experts report the recent visit by Turkish and Iranian ambassador to Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa were efforts to secure more financial opportunities. Interestingly, the foreign minister of Uzbekistan also met the Chairman Joint Chief of Staffs (JCS) General Zubair Mahmood Hayat on the same day (Monday).

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Pakistan is seeking the assistance of its allies to fill the void created by the blockage of US aid. Iran can offer Pakistan a route to the natural resources rich countries of Central Asia. It would be beneficial for both countries since Iran is also facing the wrath of the US and fears sanction. Turkey might also be willing to increase its trade with Pakistan through Iran. They have already shown in interest in becoming part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). If Pakistan can engage its allies and neighbours to work together, it might end its reliance on US aid.


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