Build-up against India cited for opposing more US aid to Pakistan

May 13th, 2009 - 10:53 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 13 (IANS) A couple of US senators have opposed tripling of non-military US aid to Pakistan, with one noting how Islamabad had spent much of the $12 billion aid it had received in the past for building up its military against India.

“You’re asking us to vote for a whole new set of money without knowing whether there are going to be benchmarks, without knowing whether we have a better system of accountability,” Democrat Robert Menendez said.

“I personally can’t continue down that road, as much as I think this is critical,” he said expressing reservations about sending more long-term aid to Islamabad at a hearing of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday on the US policy for Pakistan.

Menendez said he remained troubled by what had happened in the past, noting Pakistan had received $12 billion in US aid and had spent much of it building up its military against India on its eastern border instead of fighting the insurgents who were gaining strength on its west.

Republican Bob Corker said Congress should slow down consideration of new aid to Pakistan.

“We have not hashed out what’s happening, and we are going to be engaged there for many, many, many years. Many men and women will lose their lives. We’re doubling down. And we haven’t debated this yet,” he said.

However, Democratic chairman of the Committee, John Kerry, a prime mover of increased aid to Islamabad said: “With its nuclear arsenal, terrorist safe havens, Taliban sanctuaries and growing insurgency, Pakistan has emerged as one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges we face.”

Kerry and the senior Republican on the committee, Richard Lugar, have introduced legislation to triple non-military US aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year, for five years.

Warning that even the dramatic increase in aid has its limits, he said: “Even as we take bold steps, we should realise that our aid package to Pakistan is not a silver bullet… we should be realistic about what we can accomplish. Ultimately the true decision makers are the people and leaders of Pakistan,” Kerry said.

As the US helps Pakistan’s government to respond to an emboldened Taliban, it also must “mend a broken relationship” with Pakistan’s citizens, he said.

“Today an alarming number of Pakistanis actually view America as a greater threat than Al Qaeda,” Kerry said. “Until this changes, there’s little chance of ending tolerance for terrorist groups, or persuading any Pakistani government to devote the political capital necessary to deny such groups sanctuary and covert material support.”

Praising the new military offensive by the Pakistan military, he said: “In recent days we have seen encouraging signs that Pakistan’s army is finally taking the fight to enemy, but much remains to be done.”

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