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Haqqani wants Pak-US ties to shift from alliance to friendship

August 07, 2012


Husain Haqqani—File Photo
Husain Haqqani—File Photo

NEW YORK: Former Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has said that Pakistan and the United States need to focus on friendship and not an alliance.

He was speaking about US-Pakistan relations, how that alliance was damaged and Pakistan's national interest at a lecture in the Amphitheater “ Pakistan : Straddling the Boundary between Asia and the Middle East .”

He was of the view that since Pakistan's current national interests do not align with the United States, he proposed that the US and Pakistan stop thinking of themselves as an alliance.

He said the more Pakistan and the US view each other as allies with deviating national interests, the more difficult it will be to maintain an alliance, Haqqani said.

He said the two countries should focus on friendship - one in which they trade, engage with each other, and have civil society groups and politicians work with one another.

He said Pakistan and the United States have clashing narratives about their alliance. From the Pakistanis' perspective, the US and Pakistan have been allies for 60 years, but the US has walked away several times and cannot dictate Pakistan's foreign policy.

From the Americans' perspective, Pakistan is not a true ally. Pakistani public opinion remains anti-American despite the amount of aid the country receives, Husain Haqqani said. And Americans question Pakistan's involvement with terrorists and its ability to fulfill promises.

Haqqani said in terms of favorability, only 12 per cent of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the US and 80 per cent have an unfavorable view, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll conducted in Pakistan.

In the US, 15 per cent of Americans have a favorable view of Pakistan, compared with 81 percent who do not, according to a poll organized by Fox News.

He said some have questioned whether the cause of Pakistanis' views is due to US drone strikes. But Haqqani said that it is not a cause-and-effect relationship.

“The disapproval of the United States among some segments of the Pakistanis is deeper rooted than some of my countrymen would want you to understand, believe or realise,” he said.

Haqqani said he wanted the United States and Pakistan to have close relations, but pointed that “we will never have such close relations with such huge gaps of expectations and understanding.”

The two countries also had, and still have, national security concerns that do not coincide with each other.

He said after Pakistan and the US fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the Americans should have stayed in the region to disarm and retrain those they had originally armed and trained. Instead, the US walked away.

But Haqqani said Pakistanis also should have tried to disarm the Afghans instead of arming them further. “The wrongs of history do not justify the wrongs of the present,” he added.

He said issues arose between the two countries again after September 11, as their national security interests differed again. Because of their dissimilar interests, there cannot be a close relationship between the two countries.

Husain Haqani said historically, the military has determined Pakistan's national interests. As defined by its National Security Establishments, they include security against India, industrialisation, centralisation, nuclear deterrence against India and attempting to gain Kashmir.

With the exception of security, Haqqani said he does not believe the country's current national interests were the ones it should focus on.

He said Pakistan should also focus on recognising its ethnic diversity, as it has several tribes and needs to accept rather than fight against them. He said other national interests need to include having good relations with its neighbors, alleviation of poverty, elimination of terrorism, education, democracy and inclusiveness.

“Nuclear deterrence at the expense of half your population not going to school is not worth the price,” he said.

To a question about drones he said they can aggravate the feeling of negativity.

He said the drones do create serious ethical issues of “Do we really know who we are killing?”

He said the elimination of terrorists by drone is the only controversial issue, and added that his position on that was somewhere in the middle.

He thought that there were certain people in locations where there was no other way of doing it. If you use jet planes, for example, you would cause much more damage and many more civilian casualties. And the number of civilian casualties from drone strikes has been exaggerated. There is no evidence that there have been massive killings of civilians, he added.

To a question he said both India and Pakistan need to work together on creating mechanisms whereby the environmental degradation, which has become enhanced by global warming and was causing many problems of climate change.