In a major blow to Islamabad, the US House of Representatives has introduced a bill to terminate Pakistan’s designation as a Major non-NATO ally. With the new bill, Pakistan will no longer enjoy access to US defense supplies and cooperation in defense research and development projects.
The bill, introduced by Republican Congressman Andy Biggs on the first day of 117th Congress, does not allow the US President to issue a separate designation to Pakistan as a Major non-Nato ally unless there is a presidential certification that Pakistan has undertaken military operations to disrupt safe haven and freedom of movement of the Haqqani Network in the country.
It also seeks presidential certification on Pakistan’s steps demonstrating a commitment to preventing the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistani territory as a safe haven. It requires the Pakistan government to actively coordinate with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants.
Haqqani network, an insurgent organization, is part of the larger Taliban umbrella organization. It reportedly enjoys the backing of elements within the Pakistani security establishment. Pakistan also needs to show progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani Network senior leaders and mid-level operatives, as per the bill.
The designation of the Major non-NATO ally is given to those countries which share a strategic relationship with the US Armed Forces without being a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance between 30 countries.
Pakistan has been among the 17 Major non-NATO allies since 2004 when the Bush administration had made the country a strategic partnership. Pakistan was even designated as a Major Defense Partner by the US under the Obama administration.
However, the ties between the two countries have been strained since 2018 when the Trump administration had suspended USD 3 billion in security assistance to Pakistan. President Trump had said that Pakistan did nothing for the US despite billions of dollars given to the South Asian nation as aid.
The US has been long accusing Pakistan of not taking satisfactory action against terror groups like Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Taliban. In the second term of Obama, US lawmakers had begun introducing legislation to impose stringent conditions on Pakistan.
The current development also comes in the backdrop of growing closer ties between China and Pakistan. While the US is locked in a trade war with Beijing, Islamabad has seen economic and military cooperation with China, especially under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project.
With the new bill, Pakistan will no longer have access to War Reserve Stocks of DoD-owned equipment that is kept outside of American military bases. It will not receive loans of equipment and material for cooperative research and development projects.