US tables bill to revoke Pakistan's ally status: What rescinding MNNA status implies for India's neighbour?

In what appears to be a departure from United States' staggered policy on Pakistan, that has been strong on rhetoric but mixed on substance, a bipartisan bill introduced now seeks to make "a clean break" from the country that it said had "harboured terrorists".

The bill, seeking to revoke Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally (MNNA) to the United States, was introduced in the House of Representatives by two top lawmakers, saying the country failed to effectively fight terrorism.

 US tables bill to revoke Pakistans ally status: What rescinding MNNA status implies for Indias neighbour?

Representational image. Reuters

Introduced by Republican Congressman Ted Poe and Democratic lawmaker Rick Nolan, the legislation calls for revoking MNNA status of Pakistan, which was granted to it in 2004 by the then president, George Bush, in an effort to get the country to help the US fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

"Pakistan must be held accountable for the American blood on its hands," said Poe, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

But what does this mean for Pakistan?

The MNNA designation signifies that a country is a close ally of the United States government and shares a strategic relationship with the United States Armed Forces, but is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

While Pakistan's status does not automatically translate into a mutual defence pact, it does enable it to enjoy a variety of military and financial advantages – that are not conferred otherwise on a non-NATO country.

Pakistan is currently eligible for priority delivery of defence materials, an expedited arms sale process and a US loan guarantee programme, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports.

It also allows it to stockpile US military hardware, participate in defence research and development programmes and be sold more sophisticated weaponry.

But now, with this bill, Pakistan's eligibility stands to be revoked.

"Time and time again, Pakistan has taken advantage of America's goodwill and demonstrated that they are no friend and ally of the United States," Nolan said.

"The fact is, the billions of dollars we have sent to Pakistan over the last 15 years has done nothing to effectively fight terrorism and make us safer. It is time to wake up to the fact that Pakistan has ties to the same terrorist organisations which they claim to be fighting," he said.

Balancing act with India

IN 2004, the then US secretary of state Colin Powell had announced the decision of the George W Bush administration to designate Pakistan as an MNNA ally.

According to a Dawn report published that year, US officials had dismissed notions and India's concerns while granting Pakistan with the MNNA status. They argued that the move would not undermine the progress made towards rapprochement between India and Pakistan.

"The United States continues to strongly support the ongoing dialogue between Pakistan and India," the report quoted the officials as saying, adding that the US relationship with Pakistan is independent of its relationship with India.

According to a report in The Hindu, however, India slammed the US on Thursday for its extended military support to Pakistan and sought an end to cross-border terrorism.

"US officials are aware of our view which essentially is that the military aid (to Pakistan) is diverted for use against us. The relationship between Pakistan and the US is a relationship between two sovereign countries but we have conveyed our concerns regarding military assistance to Pakistan," the report quoted official spokesperson of MEA Gopal Baglay as saying, who also explained that problems with Pakistan remain a bilateral issue without the possibility of a third-party intervention.

Now, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi scheduled to visit Washington for extensive talks with US president Donald Trump, that are expected to feature terrorism and India's relations in South Asia, Indian policy makers will be closely observing the latest developments.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jun 23, 2017 15:10:57 IST