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WASHINGTON: Designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism is unwise in the first year of a new administration, but should be kept as an option for the longer term, says a report by a dozen US think-tanks and universities.

The report advises the Trump administration to “state up front that it intends to review the intelligence on Pakistani involvement in supporting terror much more critically than its predecessors.”

Scholars and experts from Asian Studies Centre, The Heritage Foundation; Georgetown University; National Defence University, New America; Hudson Institute; Brookings Institution; Centre for Strategic and International Studies and the Middle East Institute jointly compiled this report that includes recommendations for the Trump administration, which took oath on Jan 20 and has not yet spelled out its Pakistan policy.

The report argues that US engagement with Pakistan must be based on a realistic appraisal of the country’s policies, aspirations, and worldview.

“The US must stop chasing the mirage of securing change in Pakistan’s strategic direction by giving it additional aid or military equipment. It must be acknowledged that Pakistan is unlikely to change its current policies through inducements alone,” the report adds.

The working group which compiled the report wants the US to recognise that its efforts over several decades to strengthen Pakistan militarily have only “encouraged those elements in Pakistan that hope someday to wrest Kashmir from India through force.”

The group acknowledges that there is no silver bullet that can change decades of Pakistani policy, but a tougher stance could persuade Pakistan to cooperate with the United States.

The report urges the Trump administration to “avoid viewing and portraying Pakistan as an ally and to deal with it as a non-ally, which has engaged in supporting the Afghan Taliban.”

But the scholars concede that Pakistan is an important country that is willing to cooperate occasionally and partially with the United States. So “it cannot be treated… in the same way the US deals with North Korea.”

Advising the new administration on how to deal with Pakistan, they argue: “As a first step, the US must warn Pakistan that its status as a Major Non-Nato Ally is in serious jeopardy. Unless Pakistan takes immediate steps to demonstrate that it fully shares US counter-terrorism objectives, the US will revoke (this) status within six months.”

At the same time, the administration should maintain the option for Pakistan to be an ally of the United States in the future, the reports.

And if Pakistan behaves, as desired, it should be offered “a package of trade and investment cooperation” as “a key building block” of a new alliance.

The report also wants the administration to “prioritise engagement with Pakistan’s civilian leaders,” noting that the Pakistani civilian government under Prime Minister Sharif is trying to correct the country’s direction.

The Sharif government’s important first steps toward signalling a more moderate and tolerant course for Pakistani society “must be recognised and encouraged by the international community,” says the report.

The scholars also want the Trump administration to work with China and Gulf Arab states to persuade Pakistan to stop tolerating terrorist groups and individuals.

“The US must lead efforts, including at multilateral forums, to sanction Pakistani terrorist groups and individuals. In particular, Washington must seek to work more closely with China, which shares concerns about the presence of terrorist groups in the region and the threat they pose to the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),” the report ads.

Published in Dawn February 7th, 2017