WASHINGTON - The United States and Pakistan have widely divergent interests in South Asia and should break up to forge a ‘non-allied relationship’, Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to Washington said.
“Honesty about the true status of their ties might even help both parties get along better and cooperate more easily. After all, they could hardly be worse than they are now, clinging to the idea of an alliance even though neither actually believes in it. Sometimes, the best way forward in a relationship lies in admitting that it’s over in its current incarnation,” he said in a in-depth article: Breaking up is Not Hard to Do.
Haqqani’s piece will be music to the ears of many lawmakers in Congress who have increasingly been demanding cuts to foreign aid to Pakistan, commented The Hill newspaper, which published excerpts from the article. The Obama administration had hoped to improve relations with Pakistan with its choice of Senator John Kerry - who tripled non-military aid to the country as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – to head the State Department, but Haqqani said those efforts were for naught.
“In the end, these attempts to build a strategic partnership got nowhere,” he writes. “The civilian leaders were unable to smooth over the distrust between the US and the Pakistani militaries and intelligence agencies.”
While Washington now wants to see Pakistan focused on fighting terrorism – as it wanted Pakistan focused on fighting communism in the 1980s - Pakistan’s goal has always been to assert more regional power against arch-rival India, Haqqani writes.
He goes on to call for the creation of a “non-allied relationship” where the United States is free to pursue its interests in the region without excessive consideration of Pakistan’s reaction. Portions of the Haqqani article have also been placed on Foreign Affairs magazine’s website.
“Instead of continuing their endless battling, the United States and Pakistan should acknowledge that their interests simply do not converge enough to make them strong partners. Giving up the fiction of an alliance would free up Washington to explore new ways of achieving its goals in South Asia. And it would allow Islamabad to finally pursue its regional ambitions - which would either succeed once and for all or, more likely, teach Pakistani officials the limitations of their country’s power,” Haqqani wrote.
Unless the two countries learn to tamp down their unrealistic expectations about one another, Haqqani writes, “the new coolness between the two countries will eventually provoke a reckoning.”
The former Pakistani envoy said, “Washington has not had an easy time managing the US-Pakistani relationship, to put it mildly. For decades, the US has sought to change Pakistan’s strategic focus from competing with India and seeking more influence in Afghanistan to protecting its own internal stability and economic development. But even though Pakistan has continued to depend on US military and economic support, it has not changed its behavior much. Each country accuses the other of being a terrible ally - and perhaps both are right. “Pakistanis tend to think of the United States as a bully. In their view, Washington provides desperately needed aid intermittently, yanking it away whenever US officials want to force policy changes. Pakistanis believe that Washington has never been grateful for the sacrifice of thousands of Pakistani military and security officials who have died fighting terrorists in recent decades, nor mourned the tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians whom those terrorists have killed. Many in the country, including President Asif Ali Zardari and General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, recognise that Pakistan has at times gone off the American script, but they argue that the country would be a better ally if only the US showed more sensitivity to Islamabad’s regional concerns.
On the other side, Americans see Pakistan as the ungrateful recipient of almost $40 billion in economic and military assistance since 1947, $23 billion of it for fighting terrorism over the last decade alone. In their view, Pakistan has taken American dollars with a smile, even as it covertly developed nuclear weapons in the 1980s, passed nuclear secrets to others in the 1990s, and ‘supported’ militant groups more recently. No matter what Washington does, according to a growing cadre of US senators, members of Congress, and editorial writers, it can’t count on Pakistan as a reliable ally. Meanwhile, large amounts of US aid have simply failed to invigorate Pakistan’s economy.”
Haqqani was ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2011. He stepped down after an American businessman accused him of sending a secretary to Admiral Mike Mullen, the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asking for US help in thwarting an alleged pending military coup.
Haqqani denies the charge and has said he is afraid of returning to his home country to testify in court about threats he’s received.