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Won’t pay Pakistan as it has done nothing for US: Donald Trump

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Donald Trump

Washington | US President Donald Trump has reiterated that the USD 1.3 billion in aid to Pakistan will remain suspended until the country acts against militant safe heavens inside its territory.

The President’s statement came days after he said that Pakistan does not do “a damn thing” for the US, alleging that its government had helped al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Abbottabad. “I want Pakistan to help us. We’re no longer paying USD 1.3 billion to Pakistan. We’re paying them nothing because that’s what they’ve done to help us. Nothing,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday before leaving for his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the Thanksgiving holidays. Over the last few days, Trump has accused Pakistan of not helping the US in its fight against terrorism.

In an interview to Fox News over the weekend, Trump said that people in Pakistan knew that Laden was living in a mansion near their garrison city of Abbottabad, but they did not tell the US and kept on accepting billions of dollars in aid. “And I cut those payments off a long time ago. We’re not paying Pakistan any money because they’re not helping us at all and we’ll see where it all goes,” Trump said.

Early this year, Trump announced to stop all security assistance to Pakistan. “I hope to have a good relationship with Pakistan,” said Trump, indicating that the relationship between the two countries can come back on track if Pakistan took action against terrorist groups and their safe havens. “But right now, we’re paying Pakistan nothing. I cut them off. They were getting USD 1.3 billion a year. They’re not getting anything now,” Trump asserted.

However, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, said Trump might be incorrect in saying that Pakistan has not done anything for the US. Over the decades, Pakistan has helped the United States with some of its policy objectives, he said.

“He is right in noting that Pakistan has offered tactical cooperation in return for aid while at the same time undermined the strategic US objectives,” Haqqani told PTI. Pakistani leaders, he said, are being disingenuous in describing the US as “ungrateful”.

Americans have provided over USD 43 billion in military and economic assistance since 1954, helped build Pakistan’s conventional military capability, and bailed Pakistan out of both economic and political crises on several occasions, he said.

Haqqani, who is the director for South and Central Asia at the prestigious Hudson Institute think-tank in Washington DC, said Islamabad would continue to be tempted to go back to old transactional patterns, but not Washington.

“It is the Americans who are likely to be less interested in returning to what I describe in my book on the subject as ‘Magnificent Delusions.’ Not only do Pakistan’s ambitions in Afghanistan conflict with the US plans but the two countries strongly disagree about China’s expanding influence in Asia,” he said.

Observing that only a strategic rethink on the part of Pakistan can lead to a reset in US-Pakistan ties, Haqqani said until then, occasional twitter spats and “we paid a heavy price for being your ally” statements will continue to characterise the unusual relationship.

Ties between the US and Pakistan strained after Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists.

In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban active on its soil.

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Meeting with Xi on cards, says Trump amid high-level trade negotiations

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Trump, after his meeting with a visiting Chinese trade delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He, told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday that he would probably meet Xi next month.

 

Washington| US President Donald Trump has said he may host his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at his personal Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida next month to discuss the final terms of a trade deal that is being negotiated by the two countries.

The world’s two largest economies are locked in a trade war since Trump imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminium items from China in March last year, a move that sparked fears of a global trade war.

In response, China, the world’s second largest economy after the US, imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars worth of American imports.

Top trade officials from America and China are currently holding talks in the US to negotiate a comprehensive trade deal before their self-imposed deadline of March 1.

Trump, after his meeting with a visiting Chinese trade delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He, told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday that he would probably meet Xi next month.

(I would be meeting Xi) Probably at Mar-a-Largo, probably fairly soon, during the month of March. We have two schedules and we’ll be planning, the US President said.

The meeting, however, depends on the pace of the US-China negotiations on a comprehensive trade deal, he said.

During a dinner summit in Buenos Aires on December 1, the two leaders agreed to give a pause to their trade war and set a deadline of negotiating a trade agreement by March 1. So far, at least eight rounds of talks have been held. Trump said that they have made considerable progress.

I think we are getting along very well. Ultimately, I think the biggest decisions and some even smaller decisions will be made by President Xi and myself and we expect to have a meeting sometime in the not too distant future. And I can only say talks are going along well but we are going to have to see what happens, the US President said.

Trump said that there will be some points that this group will not agree on because maybe they are not supposed to agree on them or allowed to agree on them.

I think President Xi and I will work out the final points perhaps and perhaps not, he said.

Describing the talks as very good, he said there’s a chance that something very exciting could happen.

This is a deal that would be signed by me. I’ve been in touch with Congress. I’ve been telling many of the people in Congress exactly where we are, Trump said.

Currently, the US is getting a 25 per cent tariff on USD 50 billion worth of goods from China in mostly technology. It is also getting a 10 per cent tariff on USD 200 billion worth of goods.

The 10 per cent goes up as of March 1. It goes to a 25 per cent number so we would be getting 25 per cent on USD 250 billion and there’s about USD 267 billion that’s untouched which we discuss later, Trump said.

If we can make a deal, we wouldn’t have to bother with that discussion so we will see what happens but we’ve had very good talks, he said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the two delegations have made tremendous progress and that the Chinese team has decided to extend their stay in the US for another two days to continue with their negotiations.

If we can successfully conclude, it will be very good for the US business and finally allowing China to open up to US business, he said.

Mnuchin said that the two countries have also reached an agreement on the Chinese currency manipulation.

Let’s stabilize the currency, Trump said, adding that the two delegations would have another round of meeting before his summit with Xi.

Trump said that he is willing to extend the March 1 deadline, if he sees substantial progress in the trade talks.

We have a one-time shot at making a great deal for both the countries and so we are going to give it. So, it depends on where we are. If we’re doing very well on the negotiations, I could see extending that. I don’t think it would have to a long-term extension, he said.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu said: From China, we believe that it is very likely that it will happen, and we hope that ultimately we’ll have a deal. And the Chinese side is ready to make our utmost effort.

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Trump nominates Kelly Craft as Nikki Haley’s successor at UN

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Washington | President Donald Trump has nominated his envoy to Canada Kelly Knight Craft as the next US Ambassador to the UN to succeed Indian-American Nikki Haley.

In October, Haley announced that she was leaving the post by the end of the year.  The 46-year-old former South Carolina governor has served nearly two years in the post. She was the first Indian-American ever appointed to a Cabinet position in any US presidential administration. If confirmed by the Senate, Craft, 56, would replace Haley.

“I am pleased to announce that Kelly Knight Craft, our current Ambassador to Canada, is being nominated to be United States Ambassador to the United Nations,” Trump announced on Twitter on Friday night. “Kelly has done an outstanding job representing our nation and I have no doubt that, under her leadership, our country will be represented at the highest level. Congratulations to Kelly and her entire family!” Trump said.

Haley congratulated Craft shortly after the president’s online announcement. “She’s done a great job representing us as @USAmbCanada and we know she’ll be a strong voice for America at the United Nations. #USstrong,” the former ambassador said in a Tweet.

A former businesswoman, Craft is the country’s first woman ambassador to Canada.  Craft is Trump’s second choice to replace Haley. His first choice, former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew her name from consideration on February 16, citing personal and family reasons.

Craft has been ambassador to Canada since October 2017. She previously served as an alternate delegate to the UN during the George W Bush administration.

During her time in Ottawa, she raised eyebrows when she said that she believes in “both sides of the science” when it comes to climate change. Craft has also been a supporter of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the trade deal that was negotiated by the Trump administration to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), although not yet approved by Congress.

The Kentucky native has been married to billionaire coal mining businessman Joe Craft since 2016. The couple are both long-term and generous donors to the Republican party.

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Trump says India looking at something ‘very strong’ after Pulwama attack

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CRPF jaish

Washington | Asserting that there is a lot of problems between India and Pakistan, US President Donald Trump has said New Delhi is looking at something “very strong” in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack.

Forty CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on February 14 in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) rammed a vehicle carrying a huge quantity of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

India launched a major diplomatic offensive against Islamabad after the attack and highlighted Pakistan’s role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

The international community led by the US pressed Pakistan to deny safe haven to terror groups operating form its soil and bring the perpetrators of the Pulwama attack to justice.

Trump, after his meeting with a visiting Chinese trade delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He, told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday that “in Kashmir, it’s very dangerous”.

The President referred to the possibility of a strong response from India in the wake of the terrorist attack. “India is looking at something very strong. And I mean, India just lost almost 50 people with an attack. So, I could understand that also,” he said when asked about India’s right to self-defence.

Responding to questions on the tense situation between the two South Asian neighbours, Trump said the US is talking so does some other nations, without mentioning them.

“We are talking and a lot of people are talking. But, it is a very, very delicate balance going on right now. There’s a lot of problems between India and Pakistan because of what just happened,” said the US President. “We’re very much involved in that, if that’s what you’re referring to,” he said.

Trump described the current situation between India and Pakistan as very dangerous. “It’s a terrible thing going on right now between Pakistan and India… it is a very, very bad situation and it’s a very dangerous situation between the two countries. We would like to see it stopped. A lot of people were just killed and we want to see it stopped,” he said.

Trump claimed that his administration has developed a much better relationship with Pakistan, even after he stopped USD 1.3 billion in financial aid to Islamabad. “I stopped Pakistan, the USD 1.3 billion that we were paying them. In the meantime, we may set up some meetings with Pakistan.

“Pakistan was taking very strong advantage of the United States under other presidents and we were paying Pakistan 1.3 billion a year. I ended that payment to Pakistan because they weren’t helping us in a way that they should have. And honestly, we’ve developed a much better relationship with Pakistan over the last short period of time than we had,” Trump said.

In the wake of the Pulwama attack, US National Security Adviser John Bolton told his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval last week that America supports India’s right to self-defence as both sides vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan ceases to be a safe haven for JeM and other terror groups.

India has asked Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control.

New Delhi also announced the withdrawal of the Most Favoured Nation status for Pakistan and hiked the customs duty by 200 per cent on goods originating from Pakistan.

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