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Move in US to get Pakistan aid stopped

December 17, 2008

WASHINGTON, Dec 16: US politicians with close links to India have quietly launched a campaign to persuade the incoming Obama administration to stop US aid to Pakistan.

“I do not believe in aiding countries that aid terrorism,” said US Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey.

Declaring Pakistan a “failed State” Congressman Frank Pallone, another Democrat, said he opposed giving billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan because he believed it would be used against India.

Gary Ackerman, a pro-Indian Democratic Congressman from New York who has long advocated stopping US military aid to Pakistan, urged Washington to review its policy towards Islamabad after the Mumbai attacks.

“The implication for us is that there are bad guys still out there, and we’re going to have to learn how to deal with them, because our friends are getting sucked into this big-time,” said Mr Ackerman, who chairs the House subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

Some of these lawmakers may move a resolution in the US Congress after the inauguration of the new president on Jan 20, strongly condemning Mumbai attacks and urging lawmakers to stop military assistance to Pakistan.

A $15 billion, 10-year aid package already proposes to attach US military assistance to Pakistan to its performance in the war against terror, authorising the US administration to stop the aid if it finds that Islamabad was not doing enough to fight terrorism.

One of the primary movers of the bill, Senator Joseph Biden, is now the vice-president-elect. He chaired the Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee before the November election. A former Democratic presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, will replace him as chairman of the committee and is also expected to back the bill to provide generous economic assistance to Pakistan.

But the move by pro-Indian American politicians can harm this effort. Diplomatic observers in Washington feel that while it may not be possible to stop US aid to Pakistan because of the country’s strategic importance, the lawmakers may succeed in attaching unfavourable conditions.

Even some of these pro-Indian lawmakers realise Pakistan’s strategic importance. Senator Menendez, while emphasising the need to attach US aid to Islamabad’s performance in the war against terror, also cautioned a gathering of Indian-Americans in New Jersey this week not to stir an India-Pakistan war because such a conflict “might lead to drastic consequences”.

He urged India to come out with all the evidence it had to link Mumbai attacks to Pakistan.“We have an obligation to bring terrorists to justice. Lashkar-e-Taiba must be brought to justice,” he said.

Congressman Pallone, however, went over the top while condemning Pakistan.

“Pakistan is essentially a failed state. I do not believe the central government controls most of the territory of the country,” he declared.