is no longer a strategic partner of the United States. With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from
, the political relevance of Pakistan to the U.S. is significantly diminished. Pakistan continues to harbor Islamic terrorists who would bring death to India, an important strategic partner of the U.S.
This concern bears renewed attention because Pakistan is facing an economic catastrophe. Its economy is collapsing because of political failures, including poor governance and corruption, causing high inflation, a rapidly depreciating currency, and soaring imports of food and energy. Oh, and Islamabad’s foreign currency reserves, necessary to import essential commodities such as food and oil, are plummeting.
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Pakistan also continues to confront the consequences of last summer’s devastating floods, as well as a structural shortage of energy which results in nationwide blackouts. Importantly, when power blackouts occur, Pakistan’s textile industry
fabrics for the global economy. The textile industry is Pakistan’s major source of foreign currency.
It bears noting that Pakistan has chosen to align itself with China, an enemy of the United States. Indeed, Pakistan
might as well be a Chinese colony
when it comes to international relations. It is in the clear interest of the U.S. to embrace India as a strategic partner and to step back from bailing out Pakistan. China and India are adversaries. India is rising economically. China is falling economically.
Pakistan must find solutions to the economic and political problems which it alone causes. The U.S. should only provide humanitarian and technical assistance to Pakistan. But the days of the blank U.S. check should be over.
Let Beijing pick up the tab.
China will provide financial assistance to Islamabad because it wants transit for energy exports and imports from the Arabian Sea to China’s western provinces. China also wants access to the strategically vital port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
Saudi Arabia will provide economic assistance to Pakistan because Pakistan is a key purchaser of Saudi oil and is a source of necessary migrant labor for Saudi Arabia. Pakistan is a Sunni-majority country, as is Saudi Arabia. Riyadh sees Pakistan as a strategic partner against Iran, a Shia nation. Riyadh also sees Pakistan as its nuclear weapons backstop in the event that Iran attains a nuclear weapons capability.
This is not to say that the U.S. should rule out future cooperation with Pakistan.
Were Pakistan to abandon its support for terrorists, qualify its engagement with Pakistan, and accept major structural economic reforms, the U.S. could reciprocate in key ways. The U.S. could, for example, help Pakistan modernize its decrepit energy infrastructure. The U.S. could help Pakistan to develop its vast potential in renewable energy.
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On agriculture, the U.S. could assist Pakistan in
improving irrigation systems
in the Punjab, its rich agricultural region. The U.S. could help Pakistan increase price supports for wheat production. High price supports will cause Pakistan’s farmers to produce bountiful wheat crops regardless of demand. Pakistan needs substantial food buffers against inevitable droughts and floods.
Still, when it comes to Pakistan’s current crisis, the U.S. can safely step back and let others take the lead. U.S. strategic interest in the Indian subcontinent lies with New Delhi, not Islamabad.