Washington, June 25 : US lawmakers have suggested a tripling non-military aid to Pakistan to 15 billion dollars over the next ten years and suggested provision of security assistance based on Islamabad's performance to combat terrorism.
Explaining his proposal to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph Biden said: "We need a new strategy, to set the relationship on a stable course. We can't keep jumping from one crisis to the next, relying on exceptional diplomats and military officers to save us from disaster."
Biden, who chairs the committee, also told the panel that Islamabad should also get an additional billion dollars as "democracy dividend".
A supplemental economic assistance of 150 million dollars approved by a House committee on Tuesday was a "down-payment" on this democracy dividend, he added.
"This money will help moderate, secular political leaders show the Pakistani people that they can deliver the goods," The Dawn quoted him, as saying.
"Triple non-security aid, to 1.5 billion dollars annually. And make this a long-term commitment, over ten years. This aid will be unconditional. It's our pledge to the Pakistani people. Instead of funding military hardware, it would build schools, clinics, and roads and help develop the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where extremism is taking deeper root," he said.
A significant increase in non-security aid, guaranteed for a long period, would help persuade Pakistanis that America is not a fair-weather friend, but an all-weather friend. It would also help persuade the Pakistan leadership to believe that America is a reliable ally.
"I enthusiastically support this proposal," said Gen (retired) Anthony Zinni, a former commander of the US Central Command. "It was long overdue ... a breath of fresh air."
Supporting his proposal, a former US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin said, "I would like to endorse with enthusiasm this proposed legislation. I would like to agree with everything you said."
They both appeared as key witnesses before the panel which welcomed the proposed aid package, but disagreed with the suggestion of tying security aid to Pakistan's performance in the War against Terror.
"We're spending over 1 billion dollars annually, and it's not clear we're getting our money's worth. We should be willing to spend more if we get better returns -- and less if we don't," Biden said.
Tying security aid to results would push the Pakistani military to finally crush Al Qaeda and the Taliban, he added.
He noted that Pakistani security services would be vital players for the foreseeable future. "We cannot simply insist that they combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda; we've got to help them develop the capability to do so," he said.
"Our relationship with the army and intelligence agency, unlike our relationship with the nation as a whole, will always have a strong transactional element -- but we've got to make sure we're striking a much better bargain," he added.
Biden also defended his proposal to give "democracy dividend", saying that it would empower Pakistan's moderate mainstream.
"Ever since the start of the Bush Administration, we've had a Musharraf policy rather than a Pakistan policy. The democracy dividend will help the secular, democratic, civilian political leaders establish their credibility with the Pakistani public," he said. "They must prove that they -- more so than the generals or the radical Islamists -- can bring real, measurable improvement to the lives of their constituents," he added.