Munter urges long-term Pakistani ties

September 27, 2012


Washington's former envoy to Islamabad Cameron Munter. — File Photo by Reuters

WASHINGTON: Washington's former envoy to Islamabad Cameron Munter has called for a broader approach to fostering long-term US-Pakistan relationship, with an emphasis on expanded people-to-people contacts.

Speaking at a think-tank, he also underscored the need for the two countries to come out of the competing narratives that fault the other for failures in the relationship.

Munter discarded the view that US should adopt a policy of estrangement towards Pakistan. He said the recent revival of Pakistani supply routes for Nato and US supplies offers opportunities to advance the key US-Pakistan relationship.

On the one hand, the opportunity means Pakistan and US can cooperate toward peace and security goals in Afghanistan up to 2014, when the US-led international forces will end combat mission in that country.

While the opportunity in the post-2014 scenario will be different in the sense that the United States will view the region in a different way.

Munter was not sure if Pakistan and the US had reached a “meeting of the minds” on Afghanistan for 2014 goals and expected Afghan issue to get more attention in US policy until that deadline of withdrawal of combat troops.

But, beyond 2014, Munter indicated in his remarks that the United States would see Pakistan independent of Afghanistan and attach more importance to its relationship with Pakistan.

Over the years, he noted that the US policy makers and diplomats have been trying to balance relations with Pakistan between immediate US goals in Afghanistan and the demands of long-term ties with Islamabad.

“When you look at Pakistan through the telescope of Afghanistan you see Haqqani network (only),” he said.

Munter argued that “deeper” and “more sophisticated” ties with Pakistan would help overcome entrenched assumptions about each other's motives.

“We will be able to conceive of our American policy towards Pakistan, I hope, in a way that is broader, has more of a long-term focus, and isn't trapped by these narratives,” he said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“We don't change those narratives, but the question is, can we go around them?” Munter pondered.

The former envoy proposed a much greater US emphasis on forging people-to-people contacts, business and educational ties, and public diplomacy, so that “the face of America is your neighbor, an engineer who works on a Punjab ditch” and not “the face of Raymond Davis,” the former CIA contractor, who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January 2011, and whose actions undermined the ties.

He said that Pakistanis blaming the United States for their troubles has a lot to do with their daily frustrations and lack of solution to their problems.

Still, he noted that Pakistanis are not the only people who hold America responsible for their problems.

Contradicting common perceptions, Munter saw great scope for cooperation between the Pakistanis and Americans.

“I don't think that this is a well thought-out fundamental anti-Americanism in Pakistan, 10 per cent people approve of us and 95 per cent people care deeply what we think. So that is I think the model that gives us the chance to have a positive effect on the country.

“This country has, I believe, more than any other country I have served in 30 years of foreign service, latent pro-Americanism. I have never been in a country, where I have felt that strongly.

In his remarks, Munter felt that instead of focusing too much on “bilateralness” the two countries should broaden it to include other countries that may help Pakistan overcome its problems.