In one of his first tweets of the new year, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of deceiving the United States and harboring terrorists while accepting billions of dollars in foreign aid, an equation that would no longer be tolerated.
Along with the tweet came reports that the U.S. is likely to withhold more than $250 million in aid that it delayed sending to Islamabad in August, due to Pakistan’s perceived failure to crack down more effectively on terror groups.
Trump’s message ignited a flurry of reactions online from those concerned with foreign policy in the region.
Ire in Pakistan
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told a TV channel that the country is ready to publicly provide every detail of the U.S. aid that it has received. He also tweeted that it would “let the world know the truth”:
He later followed up with a second tweet challenging Trump to verify his $33 billion figure:
In a similar vein, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan tweeted that the U.S. had given Pakistan “nothing but invective & mistrust.”
On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale was summoned to the foreign ministry over Trump’s tweet.
Support in India and Afghanistan
In India and Afghanistan in the other hand, Trump’s tweet received support and celebration.
It made front page news in India, since Pakistan has long been considered India’s most bitter adversary.
“The Trump administration decision has abundantly vindicated India’s stand…as far as the role of Pakistan is concerned in perpetrating terrorism,” said Jitendra Singh, a Minister of State in India’s Prime Minister’s Office.
Similarly, the Afghan ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai both welcomed the tweet.
China defends Pakistan
When asked about Trump’s criticism, China responded by coming to Pakistan’s defense, praising its counter-terrorism efforts: “Pakistan has made… outstanding contribution to the global cause of counter terrorism.
The international community should acknowledge that,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, calling China and Pakistan “all weather partners.”
China is currently investing heavily in Pakistan as part of the $62-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.
Trump’s wavering stance on Pakistan
This is not the first time Trump has condemned Pakistan with accusations of harboring terrorists. In a speech in August, he said: “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations…It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also confronted Pakistan on “inaction against terrorist groups within their own borders.” Indeed, Pakistan has already seen millions of dollars of U.S. aid held back for allegedly not taking a proactive stance against the Taliban-allied Haqqani network.
However, in stark contrast to his January 1 tweet, in October last year, Trump lauded what he saw as Pakistan’s new found respect for the U.S.:
This came after American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were freed as Taliban prisoners.
Interestingly, in its report last week investigating the most recent instance of the likelihood of the U.S. holding back aid to Pakistan, The New York Times suggested that one of the reasons was that while the Canadian-American family was freed, U.S. officials had been denied access to one of their abductors — an instance that exemplified a larger unwillingness from Pakistan to cooperate on counter-terrorism operations.