Pakistan PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Calls India an 'Existential Threat' in His First International Interview: 5 Takeaways
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who replaced deposed PM Nawaz Sharif last month, dismissed his country’s tacit support to terrorists as “difference of opinion”.
New Delhi: In his first international interview, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has called India an “existential threat”. Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Abbasi, who replaced deposed PM Nawaz Sharif last month, also dismissed his country’s tacit support to terrorists as “difference of opinion”.
Here are the five key takeaways from the interview:
Pakistan is Rattled After Donald Trump’s New Af-Pak Policy
Pakistan is clearly worried about the current state of affairs with Washington. US President Donald Trump's Af-Pak speech hit Pakistan like a bolt from the blue. Unveiling the policy, Trump had called out Pakistan on harbouring terrorists. Abbasi has called it a “difference of opinion”, but he clearly knows that this is the first time a US President has called out Islamabad on television. It's going to take a lot for Pakistan if it wants to make things right with the US again, especially if it wants American funds.
A Civilian PM, not Army or ISI Chief, is Calling India an ‘Existential Threat’
It is not an Army Chief or an ISI chief saying this, but an elected Prime Minister— the highest elected civilian leader in Pakistan. If he sees India as an “existential threat”, who should New Delhi talk to? What is there to talk about? Here is a civilian leader looking at the fastest growing large economy in the world as an “existential threat”. Either he is living under a rock or there's no point in diplomacy between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Attempt to Mend Ties with the US
This entire US visit by Abbasi is a kiss-and-make-up exercise with the Trump Administration officials. Abbasi met US Vice-President Mike Pence on Tuesday in an attempt to restart ties after Trump's Af-Pak speech. Although few details have come out of that meeting, it remains unlikely that ties are going to improve anytime soon. For ties to improve, Pakistan needs to show demonstrable evidence that it is willing to go after groups like the Haqqani network that target Afghanistan, and the Lashkar and Jaish groups that target India.
Silent on Safe Haven to Terrorists
To Christiane Amanpour's credit, she repeatedly asked the Pakistan Prime Minister about his country harbouring terrorists. And his only response was: “there is a difference of opinion”. Surely, 17 years of the war on terror cannot be dismissed as just a difference of opinion. It is clear that the world is calling out Pakistan on its duplicitous policy of harbouring terrorists and yet calling itself a frontline state in the war on terror. Abbasi knows it too, but can’t admit it.
Pakistan is Worried Over Losing Out on American Aid
Pakistan gets close to $500 million in military and non-military aid from the US, a large chunk of which is Coalition Support Funds. The US has not only threatened to cut off these funds, but also linked them to showing demonstrable evidence of going after groups like Haqqani, Jaish and Lashkar. Pakistan is at a crossroads. If it wants to still be taken as a serious player, it should stop its double game of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. The world's patience with it is almost done.
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