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Pakistan has started to mull over options to confront the new US South Asia strategy which has ramped-up pressure on it. The country’s National Security Committee will be chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi where the contours of the response will be discussed. Islamabad has decided to review its ties with the US after President Trump lashed out at it while rolling out the country’s South Asia strategy.

The word from well-placed sources is that Pakistan may call off its efforts at reconciliation in Afghanistan, should the US continue coercion and intimidation. Pakistan will reset its Afghan policy commensurate with its national interests. This is a possible reaction to Trump’s call for Indian assistance in the Afghan quagmire.

If the US further hardens its stance, Pakistan could block GLOCs and ALOCs Pakistan can also completely pull out from mediatory efforts between the recalcitrant Taliban and the US

Sources add that Pakistan will establish good ties with the Trump Administration if the US adopts a balanced policy; Trump speech has taken Pakistan affront given its meritorious contributions in the fight against terror.

In a meeting with the US Ambassador, David Hale, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan needs US acknowledgment and trust instead of aid.

“We are not looking for any material or financial assistance from the US but trust, understanding, and acknowledgment of our contributions,” he was quoted as saying by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Read more: Afghanistan is ripe for proxy war

Islamabad can respond in a manner which could concern the US because as it stands, the ‘privileged’ status that Pakistan enjoys is cosmetic at best

Pakistan asserts that neither is the US a crutch to Pakistani defense needs nor its economy is dependent upon Washington. Pakistan has reaffirmed its pledge of continuing the fight against terror. To that effect, the military has already given the Pakistan version; the tell-all press conference of DG ISPR a day before Trump’s speech ticked all the right boxes. The US has categorically conveyed that Pakistan’s role in the fight against terror is unmatched, unprecedented, and spectacular.

“We have done a lot towards that end and shall keep on doing our best, not to appease anyone, but in line with our national interest and national policy,” General Qamar asserted while pointing out his consternation over India’s growing and US-backed influence in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Hale said the “US values Pakistan’s role in the war against terror and is seeking cooperation from Pakistan to resolve the Afghan issue.”

Read more: Trump slams Pakistan; calls upon India to help in Afghanistan

Meanwhile, government officials also expressed their concerns on Mr. Trump’s Afghan strategy. Jan Achakzai, Advisor to Balochistan government on media and strategic communication, stated that the government is disappointed by President Trump’s remarks on Pakistan. He iterated that Pakistan has the capability and capacity to sustain itself and that unlike Iraq or Syria, it has a military which can defend it from any kind of aggression.

Political and security analysts have also made their concerns public. Senior anchor and political commentator, Moeed Pirzada, stated that the US Afghan policy has backfired since its foes in the region have come out in full support of Pakistan. He iterated that US offer to India to assist it in Afghanistan will only exacerbate the already deteriorating security situation in the war torn country. He said that without Pakistan, peaceful resolution of Afghan conflict is highly unlikely.

After clear positions by China & Russia, Iran – with interests in a stable Afghanistan – should explain its response https://t.co/okwk6WuTsc

— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) August 24, 2017

Opposition takes on the government

However, despite ramping-up pressure from the US, Pakistan is all-set to confront the new US strategy. The defiance comes after the government has come in for criticism from the opposition, which puts the blame on a weak Pakistani foreign policy.

Pakistan is hence encouraged to broach upon the US that coercion will be inimical to peace in Afghanistan. Washington’s ploy to partly outsource its Afghan policy to India has already started to backfire

PTI’s Chief, Imran Khan while lambasting Trump’s lack of strategic acumen took serious exceptions to the piecemeal response given by the civilian government. He said, “Country’s political leadership is scared, which is why the army chief had to respond to the statement. They have their looted billions of dollars abroad and that is why they are afraid of responding.”

He added: “I want to ask the government and its foreign policy makers where were they when Indian lobbyists in Washington were busy influencing the US government and devising that strategy primarily aimed to de-nuclearise Pakistan.”

Members of the upper house lashed out at Trump and called for the reconfiguration of ties with the US. The Defense Minister, Khurram Dastgir told the senate that the foreign minister will visit the US to which Chairman Senate, Raza Rabbani responded that the visit should be canceled as it would send a clear message to the US. Lawmakers said that Islamabad has the option of denying air and ground corridors to the US.

Read more: Pulling the plug on Afghanistan

Walk the talk 

China has batted for Pakistan rather more vociferously that Pakistan itself has. Being the fulcrum of China’s OBOR initiative, Pakistan enjoys its full support

Pakistan stands firm amid mounting pressure, for it is not solely hooked upon the US, thus reducing the latter’s leverage to compel it. Pakistan is looking up to its allies in China and Russia. China has batted for Pakistan rather more vociferously that Pakistan itself has. Being the fulcrum of China’s OBOR initiative, Pakistan enjoys its full support. China State Councillor Yang Jiechi told Tillerson on Wednesday that “we should attach importance to the important role that Pakistan plays in the Afghanistan issue, respect (Pakistan’s) sovereignty and legitimate security concerns,” according to a foreign ministry statement.

This is the second time in as many days when China has openly supported Islamabad over US allegations of it harboring and fostering terrorism. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying praised Pakistan on Tuesday for making “great sacrifices and contributions to fighting terrorism”.

Read more: The bloodbath in Afghanistan continues unabated

Besides CPEC, US attempts to exacerbate Indo-Sino rivalry by courting Delhi has brought Beijing much more closer to Islamabad. Pundits opine that Trump’s desire to induct India in the Afghan theatre is an attempt offset the nascent Chinese influence in Afghanistan.

The Defense Minister, Khurram Dastgir told the senate that the foreign minister will visit the US to which Chairman Senate, Raza Rabbani responded that the visit should be canceled as it would send a clear message to the US

Pakistan has also been supported by Moscow over its role in the fight against terror.” Putting pressure on Pakistan may seriously destabilize the region-wide security situation and result in negative consequences for Afghanistan,” said Russian Presidential envoy to Kabul, Zamir Kabulov.

Pakistan is hence encouraged to broach upon the US that coercion will be inimical to peace in Afghanistan. Washington’s ploy to partly outsource its Afghan policy to India has already started to backfire. Firstly, it takes away any incentive for Pakistan to stop looking for influence in Kabul. Pakistan’s Afghan policy hinges on its efforts to confront Indian influence in Kabul. Pakistan has time and again pointed out to the nexus of R&AW with NDS which is causing terrorism in the country.

Trump’s request to India to ramp-up efforts in Afghanistan is China-centric but it gives Pakistan the room to strengthen its own narrative about Indian involvement in Afghanistan and the resulting need for Islamabad to continue with its policies in that country. Islamabad can respond in a manner which could concern the US because as it stands, the ‘privileged’ status that Pakistan enjoys is cosmetic at best.

Read more: Trump’s Afghanistan strategy is simply old wine in a new bottle

In a meeting with the US Ambassador, David Hale, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan needs US acknowledgment and trust instead of aid

The highly-touted Non-Nato Ally status has, over the years been overshadowed by the strings and pulls imposed on Pakistan. Thus, certain facets of Pak-US ties are not indispensable. Islamabad has a few options in the armory, should the US exert more pressure. It can increase charges of all land and air corridors it provides.

If the US further hardens its stance, Pakistan could block GLOCs (Ground lines of communications) and ALOCs(Air lines of communications). Pakistan can also completely pull out from mediatory efforts between the recalcitrant Taliban and the US. Time will tell that the US will need to abandon the idea of fighting and embrace that of engagement with them.

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