This being the election year in the USA, President Donald Trump urgently needs a peace agreement in Afghanistan that he could use as a trump card to win a second tenure. For this he needs Pakistan’s help to bring the Taliban on board. This explains why the President waxed effusive during his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan at Davos, calling him his friend and promising to speak to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the Kashmir issue. While keeping in mind that President Trump failed to fulfil a similar promise made six months back, one welcomes the reassurance to help resolve the Kashmir issue and end the tensions on the LoC. The Modi administration is already facing unprecedented criticism from international media, HR organisations and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic for keeping Indian-Occupied Kashmir under siege for nearly six months and using repressive methods to put down protests in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. In case President Trump is really willing to put pressure on New Delhi, it might make a difference this time. But is he really willing to do what he says?
While President Trump was all smiles, the State Department was critical of Pakistan for being a part of the CPEC. Acting as an undiplomatic ambassador, Assistant Secretary Alice Wells said things that can be interpreted as interference in Pakistan’s internal matters, an unfortunate tendency in the USA that has considerably contributed to its unpopularity in Pakistan. Defying facts and figures made public several times, she claimed Pakistan’s debt burden was growing due to the Chinese financing. She accused Pakistan of giving contracts related to CPEC to companies blacklisted by the World Bank. She also questioned the immunity from prosecution for the newly formed CPEC Authority. While the USA has shown unwillingness to fulfil Pakistan’s energy-cum-infrastructure needs, it is unhappy over China doing so.
Pakistan no doubt needs to have good relations with the USA. But this must not be at the expense of friendly ties with the country’s time-tested ally, China. The CPEC has benefitted Pakistan a lot as it ended power shortages, created tens of thousands new jobs and brought mega-Chinese investments when no other country was willing to do so.