Prelims level : International Relation Mains level : GS-II Governance, Social Justice and IR
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Why in News:

  • Allocation for India to be raised; those for Afghanistan, Pak. to be rationalised

Back ground:

  • The U.S.’s top South Asia diplomat will testify on Thursday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) in a hearing on ‘U.S. Interest in South Asia and FY 2020 Budget’.
  • The budget request for India will be increased and those for Afghanistan and Pakistan will be “rationalized”. The overall budget request of $1.07 billion is 16% below the FY2019 request. The annual exercise formally articulates the budget request to Congress but also, in reality, is a forum to discuss foreign policy in the region.
  • Ms. Wells will testify that the budget request for India “reflects its pre-eminent role in the Administration’s Indo-Pacific vision and our two countries’ commitment to shared principles and values”.

Coherent India Policy:

  • The Trump administration and the HFAC are not in agreement on how foreign policy in South Asia is being conducted.
  • the State Department did not have an Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia and said the Department had failed to come up with a “coherent” India policy.
  • The statement talks about the growing bilateral trade with India, a deepening defence relationship but notes the challenges. The U.S. is looking to India to take stronger action on crimes based on religion — and this is expected to contribute to a stronger relationship.
  • “We look to India’s democratically elected leaders and institutions to swiftly condemn acts of violence on the basis of religion and hold perpetrators accountable.
  • This will help further India’s security and economic interests and strengthen our bilateral relationship,” the statement reads. “We took note of PM [Narendra] Modi’s comments following his re-election highlighting his government’s commitment to inclusiveness…”
  • The statement also refers to market access issues and tariff and non-tariff barriers being “longstanding concerns”.

Smaller Budget:

  • The State Department will make a smaller budget request for Afghanistan. Ms. Wells will testify that the U.S. is decreasing the size of its portfolio and calling for funds from other donors, such as the EU and the World Bank. “The smaller request for FY 2020 for Afghanistan anticipates this more focused portfolio;
  • however, significant prior year resources in the pipeline will allow us to avoid program disruptions as we transition to a smaller portfolio and have flexibility to respond to a political settlement,” the statement reads.

U.S. Relationship with Pakistan:

  • The U.S. relationship with Pakistan remains one of America’s “most complex and most consequential” ones, Ms. Well’s is expected to say.
  • The budget request for FY2020 does not include any security assistance for Pakistan’s military but only civilian assistance programming, as per the statement released.
  • The House will hear on Thursday that two issues — reconciliation in Afghanistan and counterterrorism — “will lie at the heart of a renewed bilateral relationship” between the U.S. and Pakistan.
  • The statement also refers to the February 14 Pulwama attack, saying it “underscored the importance and immediate need to halt terrorist activity in the region,” adding that the multilateral effort in sanctioning Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief “sends an important message that the international community will not tolerate terrorism”.
  • “Pakistan must sustain these measures and expand upon them, including by prosecuting terrorist leaders.
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