NEW DELHI: Whilst the Indian media and political circles engage in rumours that US President Obama’s recent trip to India and the strengthening ties between the two nations are at the expense of Pakistan, the Obama administration asked the US Congress to provide more than USD 1 billion in civilian and military aid to Pakistan, including a six-fold increase in foreign military financing.

This move indicates that while Washington is keen to promote ties with India, its ties with Pakistan continue to be of utmost importance, given Pakistan’s strategic importance. In fact, the budget proposal describes Pakistan as a “strategically important nation” and adds that the proposed assistance will strengthen Pakistani military in the fight against militancy, will increase the safety of nuclear installations and will accelerate economic development.

The proposal adds that continued US engagement with Pakistan will help bring stability to Afghanistan and will promote better relations between Islamabad and New Delhi -- crucial to stability in the region.

The proposal involves more than six- fold increase in the foreign military financing (FMF) to Pakistan from USD 42.2 million in 2014 to USD 265 million in 2016. FMF will continue to focus on seven priority areas identified and agreed with Pakistan. These include:

  • precision strike
  • air mobility and combat search and rescue
  • counter- improvised explosive device and battlefield survivability
  • battlefield communications
  • night operations
  • border security
  • maritime security/counter narcotics in support of counter terrorism aims.

It also includes a proposed USD 334.9 million for economic support fund and USD 143.1 million especially for counter-terrorism and non-proliferation efforts.

The proposal states, “For Pakistan, the Budget demonstrates our commitment to fostering stability and prosperity, and provides security assistance that promotes counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities. The Budget continues to support public engagement and partnership programs in Pakistan and maintains staffing in order to support these critical U.S. priorities.”

This is in line with the proposal for FY 2015, in which USD 1 billion had been set aside for Pakistan, of which USD 280 million is military aid which the Obama administration had allotted in line with highlighting Pakistan’s significance in counter-terrorism efforts in the future. “FY 2015 funding for Pakistan is crucial to meeting key U.S. strategic priorities of combating terrorism, strengthening security in both Pakistan and the region, and maintaining stability in Afghanistan post-transition,” the State Department said.

Meanwhile, a senior US official stated that ties with India were not at the cost of Pakistan or China, but rather, “to build India up.” "I would fundamentally point to the fact that this is a US-India effort and it's not necessarily to counterweight anyone," Phil Reiner, White House's senior director for South Asian Affairs, told foreign media at a round table on Obama’s visit (as quoted in ET).

Following suit, however, reports suggest that China’s President Xi will be the chief guest at Pakistan’s joint military parade on national day, March 23.