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10 January 2014, Gateway House

U.S.-Pakistan ties: Challenges ahead

2014 will be a critical year for Afghanistan and for the region as a whole. Gateway House's Sameer Patil interviews Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., who speaks on the challenges ahead for Pakistan after the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan

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The triangulation of interests of the United States, Pakistan and India over Afghanistan, the dynamics of India-Pakistan relations, and the complexities of the U.S.-Pakistan ties have an important role to play in shaping the regional security scenario. Gateway House’s Sameer Patil speaks to Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., on the current state of U.S.-Pakistan ties, its impact on India, and how things will unfold after the U.S. drawdown.

Q. How do you evaluate the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and how do you think this is going to evolve after the U.S.’ withdrawal from Afghanistan this year?

The relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. has improved somewhat after the low point it had hit following the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad. That said Pakistan and the U.S.’ interests do not necessarily converge when it comes to Afghanistan. I am talking about interests as they are perceived by the security establishments of Pakistan and the U.S. After the American withdrawal, the likelihood is that the Pakistani establishment will clash with American perceptions of those interests.

Q. From the U.S. policy perspective, will Pakistan still be as relevant a player as it has been in the past decade?

The U.S. and Pakistan will have to review their policies in a significant way. The American dependence on Pakistan for logistical support for its troops in Afghanistan will end because they will no longer have to transport equipment through Pakistan. So America will have a little more leverage. Pakistan has many domestic problems which need to be addressed on a priority basis. Beginning 2014, a new phase will emerge, both in U.S.- Pakistan relations, and Pakistan’s own necessity of dealing with issues at home.

Q. How significant is the issue of U.S. drone strikes in the bilateral relationship?

Pakistan does not approve of the “drone strikes”. There is near national consensus on this. Unless Pakistan is able to deal with terrorists on its soil, there is little likelihood that America will change its policy on using such strikes, especially along the border with Afghanistan. This is one of those issues where there is a lot of hot air, but Pakistan’s capacity to assert itself against terrorists and stop drone strikes does not exist.

Q. How has the political leadership of Pakistan been able to continue to co-operate with the U.S. despite an extreme and growing anti-American sentiment in the country?

Pakistan needs leaders who will tell its people how important the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is and unless they say that public opinion will remain adverse towards the U.S.

Q. What is the impact of Nawaz Sharif’s coming into power on the India- Pakistan relationship?

Nawaz Sharif’s biggest problem is that his party, the Pakistan Muslim League, has a constituency that includes religious fanatical elements who are anti-India. How far he will be able to make bold decisions to advance the ties remains to be seen. India’s own political uncertainty does not make it easy to carve out a meaningful relationship.

Q. So are you saying that they have taken no actions in terms of terrorist leaders operating from Pakistan?

I do not see a major change in Pakistani policy relating to militant groups in the near future.

Q. How do you look at the China-Pakistan relationship? What do you think will be the future course?

China is engaged with Pakistan and considers it to be an important ally. However, the Chinese leadership is pragmatic and understands that a jihadi Pakistan is not in China’s interests. China does not want Pakistan to be isolated.  At the same time there is less romance from the Chinese side.

Q. What role do you foresee for the U.S.-Pakistan economic cooperation, excluding aid and military assistance?

Since 1947 America has given just $15 billion to South Korea which has become an economic giant while Pakistan which received $40 billion is still not a significant economic power. What needs to be done on the economic front is not a function purely of politics but also economics. Nobody will invest in a country that is seen as a safe haven for extremists.

Husain Haqqani is the former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., Senior Fellow, South and Central Asia, Hudson Institute, Washington DC. He is the author of ‘Magnificient Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding.’

This interview was exclusively conducted for Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. You can read more exclusive content here.

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