Obama's Parting Shot against Pakistan
The outgoing administration of lame-duck President Barack Obama has ordered sanctions against seven Pakistani entities for "acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States".
This final act by Obama will confirm his legacy as an American chief executive most hostile toward the United States' cold war ally Pakistan.
The United States Federal Register has listed the following Pakistani entities on its sanctions list: National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM); three NESCOM subsidiaries: Air Weapons Complex (AWC), Maritime Technology Complex (MTC) and New Auto Engineering (NAE); and Universal Tooling Services. The sanctioned entities are involved in developing missiles and related systems for Pakistani military.
Prior to the latest Obama sanctions announcement, the Obama years have seen US-Pakistan relations sink to an all-time low in 2011 when the United States refused to apologize after the US troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in an attack on a border posts on Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan responded by cutting off supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan. These supply routes were reopened only after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized to Pakistan in July 2012.
Pivot to Asia:
As part of the US "pivot to Asia" policy to counter China's rise, President Obama also courted India at the expense of America's cold war ally Pakistan. Mr. Obama visited India twice and never once visited Pakistan during his two terms. The US signed multiple agreements with India, including a nuclear deal and a military logistics deal. At the same time, the United States has pushed for India's inclusion to the Nuclear Suppliers Group while keeping Pakistan out.
With growing distance from the United States, Pakistan has forged closer ties with China culminating in a massive $55 billion Chinese investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). If all goes well and on schedule, of the 21 CPEC-related agreements on energy– including gas, coal and solar energy– 14 will be able to provide up to 10,400 megawatts (MW) of energy by March 2018. According to China Daily, these projects would provide up to 16,400 MW of energy altogether. In addition, there will be a network of roads, rail-links and pipeline stretching several thousand kilometers from Pakistani posts on the Arabian Sea to landlocked western china.
China and Pakistan's defense cooperation is also growing with continuing collaboration on development of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets and Pakistan Navy modernization with the addition of custom AIP submarines.
Pakistan ties with its cold war foe Russia have also warmed up. Russia has agreed to invest in building a gas pipeline in Pakistan. Russia has also lifted its arms embargo and agreed to sell attack helicopters to Pakistani military. The two countries had first-ever joint military exercises in 2016. Recently, Pakistan, China and Russia held a trilateral meeting in Moscow on Afghanistan.
US-Pakistan Ties Under Trump:
Going by President-elect Donald Trump's initial friendly call with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in December 2016, it seems that the US-Pakistan ties are likely to be better, not worse, of what we have seen in the last 8 years with Washington-Islamabad relations sinking to a new low.
President Obama's two terms in office have seen the cooling of US-Pakistan ties. In the same period, Pakistan has further cemented its close relations with China and warmed up ties with its cold war foe Russia. Will US-Pakistan ties warm up again under President Trump? Only time will tell.