Donald Trump's pressure on Pakistan may push it closer to China

Reacting to US threats, Pak army official says 'no amount of coercion can dictate us'

"Until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, we consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting U.S. personnel, the United States will suspend that kind of security assistance to Pakistan".

Back in August, when announcing his new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, the president said: "We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting".

The freeze will be enforced "until the Pakistani Government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network", she said.

The data-indicative of worsening US-Pakistan ties-come as US President Donald Trump slammed Pakistan's "lies and deceit" for providing "safe havens" to terrorists in exchange of $33 billion worth of US aid to Islamabad.

The U.S. State Department announced the decision, saying it reflected the Trump administration's frustration that Pakistan has not done more against the two groups, which have long used sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan that have killed U.S., Afghan and other forces.

A senior Pakistan Army official said on Wednesday that no amount of coercion could dictate Pakistan on how to conduct its policies and affairs. But it could end up backfiring by diminishing the cooperation between the US and Pakistan to combat terror groups in the region.

Since 2002, Pakistan has received over $13 billion in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) from the US.

The decision, which was announced Thursday, is meant to pressure Pakistan to help USA foreign policy priorities like clamping down on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries. Nicholson said the USA military would like to see the Pakistanis eliminate the Taliban's sanctuary across the Afghan border.

"If the funding is cut, the Pakistanis will obviously retaliate by ceasing to cooperate with the U.S.", Dr. Zubair Iqbal, an economist focusing on Pakistan, told Newsweek.

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U.S. security aid to Pakistan fell 62%-from $849 million in financial year 2012 to $322 million in financial year 2016.

There were several indications that the suspension of aid to Pakistan was in the works. The country received more than $1 billion in USA assistance in 2016.

Briefing reporters, US officials stressed the suspension did not affect civilian aid to Pakistan and that the money could go through if Islamabad took decisive action against the groups.

"They want to apply graduated pressure to Pakistan to change its policy, rather than abandon it altogether", security analyst Hasan Askari said.

"The timing and nature of the Trump administration's decision are worrisome".

The latest USA defense budget signed by Trump in December allocates $700 million in conditional aid to reimburse Pakistan for supporting US military operations in Afghanistan, but the aid is facing more scrutiny. "No more", he said, of Washington's aid to Pakistan. Officials say the country has made enormous sacrifices to support the USA war on terror.

Prof. Lin believes if the US and its allies push their Indo- Pacific strategy to the extreme, China will surely carry out a plan with Pakistan to ensure the security of sea routes.

Also Thursday, the State Department accused Pakistan of severe violations of religious freedom.

Pakistan has long rejected accusations that it fails to tackle the militants battling the Kabul government and USA -led foreign forces in Afghanistan, from sanctuaries on its side of the border.

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