President Donald Trump carried out his promise that India had a “true” friend in the White House, when he announced a dramatic change in Pakistan policy, lashing out at Islamabad for giving succor to terrorists and warning that ‘billions’ of dollars of aid would come to an end soon. He also said a major pillar of the policy in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region would be to further strengthen the strategic partnership with India.
In a major policy speech slated to spell out American policy in Afghanistan and South Asia, President Trump made a powerful argument for changing American policy toward Pakistan, possibly the first time that an American president in a national speech, declared that Pakistan harbored terrorists, stopping short by a hair of saying it was a state-sponsor of terrorism..
While recognizing that Pakistan has been a “valued partner” which has fought with the U.S. against a common enemy, and that Pakistani people have suffered much, he said, “But at the same time, they are housing the same terrorists we are fighting.”
”We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump said. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists,” he added.
“It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate a commitment to civilization, order and peace,” Trump said. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s support for terrorists,” he said, music to the ears of Indian policymakers and the defense establishment in India, which has tried for decades to get Washington to see the light on the issue.
The U.S. has been paying “billions and billions” of dollars to Pakistan. “That will have to change and change immediately,” Trump said.
Another critical policy is to further develop the strategic partnership with India, Trump said. India, he said, makes billions of dollars from trade with the U.S., and he demanded New Delhi do more in aid to Afghanistan.
“Today twenty U.S. designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the highest concentration in any region of the world,” Trump noted. “For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict,” he said.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear, said the president. “We must stop the re-emergence of safe-havens that enable terrorists to threaten America; and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us,” Trump said.
American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically, Trump said, a core pillar of the new approach being one based on conditions being met and not a time-based approach.