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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Irony: G-7 wants to protect poor countries from China’s debt trap

The G7 has decided to launch a B3W partnership to protect poor countries from China's debt trap. According to Saleem Akhtar Malik, this is a rather rich move because it is the West that usually ensnares developing countries in a debt trap.

The G7 leaders, during their recent meeting, agreed to float a new infrastructure investment initiative that would serve to counter China’s influence in developing countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

Reportedly, the G7 counter initiative reflects the concerns of these rich democracies about China’s increasing influence in developing countries across the Indo-Pacific and Africa. A move to launch the Build Back Better World (B3W) partnership was hinted at by U.S. and U.K. leaders before the summit.

Read more: G7 pledges to ‘do whatever is necessary’ to restore growth

According to a fact sheet released by the White House during the G-7 Summit, the counter initiative is described as “a values-driven, high-standard, and transparent infrastructure partnership led by major democracies.” The details about the G-7 initiative are yet to be announced.

One finds it difficult to reconcile with the West’s sudden surge of concern for the poor countries. The 3rd   and 4th world countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have struggled against the European colonialism during which period their natural resources were looted and plundered, and where millions were exterminated due to slave labor, are well familiar with the West’s so-called concern about “democratic and human values”.

The G-7 counter initiative calls for “protecting the poor countries from China’s debt trap”. Who else knows, more than Pakistan, the debt trap into which it was squeezed by the West’s lending financial institutions, the World Bank, the Asian Bank, and the IMF?

Read more: China’s debt trap diplomacy: Is Pakistan a victim in CPEC?

In this article, I’ll explain to you, as a case study, how Pakistan was ensnared in the debt trap by the US and its European allies.

US economic aid to Pakistan

According to Wren and Elhai (2011), over a period of 62 years, i.e. between 1948 and 2010, the US provided $40.4 billion in economic aid to Pakistan (zero aid during 1949-1950). This translates into an average of $ 673.78 million annually.

US economic assistance to Pakistan peaked in 1962, at over $2.3 billion. Between 1962 and 1965 the economic aid hovered around $2 billion due to the Indus Basin projects (including work on Mangla and Tarbela Dams). It should be understood that the funding for Indus Basin projects was not pure aid, but low-interest-long term loans from the World Bank.

While the US aid dropped dramatically during and after the 1965 and 1971 wars, it kept on trickling at low levels to cover the payments to US espionage networks in Pakistan. This also included funding Pakistani diplomats, media persons, and politicians on the US payroll.

Read more: US Aid to Pakistan reduced by $440 Million

A significant portion of the US economic aid to Pakistan is consumed in defraying the cost of salaries and other perks to the USAID employees (most of whom double as CIA operatives), and the batteries of US Trojan horses working in Pakistani media and NGOs. This includes the “think tanks” like Hussain Haqqani. This explains why the economic segment of US aid is way higher than the military one.

Contrary to the popular perception generated by the US and its anti-army lobbies in Pakistan, the economic segment of the US aid had always been larger than the military component. As a sample, the breakdown of the US assistance between 1957 and 1965 is given below:


Covertly helping India

Between 1954 and 1965, the US provided aid not only to enhance Pakistan’s economy but also gave enough tanks to us for raising two armored divisions. These armored formations were to be stationed at Multan and Kharian cantonments, both constructed with US assistance.

The Americans knew very well that the armor would never be used against a purported communist threat either from the Soviet Union, or China. America’s ultimate objective in the Asia-Pacific region was to bring India within its sphere of influence. Towards this end, Uncle Sam was not averse to employing a carrot and stick policy with India.

Read more: Exposing the unreliable alliance between India and US as they take on China

Whereas the US, during the Cold War period, used Pakistan as the cat’s paw, it made sure that Pakistan would not pose a major threat to India. The M-47 and M-48 tanks, supplied to Pakistan, had their infra-red devices removed before they were shipped to Pakistan. Hence, Pakistani armor did not possess the night fighting capability during the 1965 and 1971 wars.

Similarly, the service life of the torpedoes that came with the US-supplied submarine Ghazi had expired. As a result, when Ghazi hit INS Nilgiri during the 65 War, the torpedo stuck inside the frigate’s hull and failed to explode. Well, this may be an unfortunate coincidence, but happen it did.

Read more: Indo-Pakistani 1965 War: Battle of Chawinda

A heavy price paid

What was the price Pakistan had to pay for US assistance? In return for the fruition of the US strategic objectives in the Eurasian landmass, was Pakistan made to endanger its existence?

US aid to Pakistan was not “free lunches”. The world knows about the Badaber air base leased out to the Americans, and the resultant Francis Gary Powers episode, which ended in the shooting down of a USAF U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union. The plane had taken off from Badaber, in Peshawar’s vicinity. Premier Khrushchev of the USSR has threatened Pakistan with nuclear retaliation. He said he had drawn a red circle around Peshawar.

Read more: Did Russia just reduce the threat of Indian-backed terrorism against Pakistan?

Besides Badaber, the US had established a number of electronic eavesdropping stations all over Pakistan. One such station was established in Model Town, then a sleepy Lahore suburb. One wonders why such a station was located just 30 km from Pakistan’s border with India. Perhaps Uncle Sam had wanted to snoop on India too.

During the Afghan War, while the US waited on the sidelines, ISI planned and executed military operations across the Amu Darya, in the Soviet Union proper. After 9/11, Shamsi airbase was leased out to the Americans. US drone attacks against the Afghan Taliban were carried out from this base.

Read more: Edward Snowden will publish a memoir: How the US spies on the world

The US serving its interests

This brings us to an interesting aspect: If the total US military aid to Pakistan, over a period of 45 years, amounted to just $ 4.3 billion, from where did Pakistan get 40 F-16 fighter aircraft during the 1980s. The cost of F-16s was certainly not covered by the US aid package in the wake of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The amount was paid by the Saudis, as a quid pro quo for stationing a Pakistani armored brigade in Tabuk, at the tri-junction of KSA, Jordan, and Israel. Payment for a subsequent order for 60 F-16s was done by Pakistan from its own resources. The same F-16s which Uncle Sam never delivered on the pretext of Pakistan pursuing the nuclear option.

Read more: Did Pakistan’s F-16 shoot down Russian vice president’s fighter jet?

In the final analysis, America will keep its hide and seek with Pakistan. Like Shylock, it is in America’s interest that Pakistan remains dependent on dole-outs from it, hence the weak and pliable political governments. More important than this, under cover of aid, the US maintains an elaborate security and spy network in Pakistan to serve its strategic interests.

The author was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honors degree in War Studies, an MBA, and an M.Phil in Management Sciences. He is the author of the book Borrowed Power. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.