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Misunderstanding runs on both sides of U.S - Pakistan ties: Haqqani

23 October, 2013

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WASHINGTON: Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's former ambassador to Washington said that mistrust exists on both sides of US and Pakistan ties adding that the Americans inadvertently expanded religious extremism in Pakistan.

In an interview with New York Times, Haqqani said inadvertently US ended up helping groups that eventually helped the extremists as it failed to understand that religious extremist groups have been in Pakistan since 1947 and some of them have been embraced by the state as a means of nation-building.

"The United States did not understand those social forces, and on many occasions, ended up inadvertently helping groups that eventually helped the extremists" he said.

Regarding trust issues between the two countries, Hussain Haqqani said the mutual misunderstandings start in 1947; the suspicions come later.

The misunderstanding was Pakistan's expectation that the United States would help build it up in its quest for containing Communism. And when the United States built it up, that Pakistan would be able to seek parity with India, which was its primary rival. The Americans had no such intention. The suspicions, in my opinion, are very much contrived as a means of generating public opposition to the United States in Pakistan, and thereby giving the Pakistanis leverage in the relationship, he told the paper.

He further said the suspicion in Pakistan is that the United States wants to defang Pakistan's nuclear program, that the United States cannot accept a Muslim country having a strong military, and that America wants Pakistan to be subservient to India, just as it wants the Arabs to be subservient to Israel.

In response to a question he said the biggest misconception the Americans have had is that they can somehow bend Pakistan to their will simply with the leverage of aid, but this never gave them leverage. . There has never been an effort to understand 180 million people and their aspirations, the former envoy said.

Regarding US abandoning Pakistan on many occasions Haqqani said it is partially valid.

However the the sequence of who abandoned who is not always fully understood as Pakistan's elites almost always misled their people about what they had promised the Americans in private.

Richard Holbrooke envisaged a "grand bargain," in which Pakistan's insecurities about India were addressed, Pakistan's ambitions in Afghanistan were dealt with, and Pakistan was assured that America will be there for the long haul. But a "grand bargain" is only possible under very strong leadership in Pakistan and very strong leadership in the United States. Ambassador Holbrooke was not able to convince President Obama to put the full weight of his presidency behind his initiative. On the other hand, President [Asif Ali] Zardari in Pakistan was also handicapped by complex domestic politics, the former told the paper.

Speaking about affect of Obama administration's expansion of the drone program Haqqani said [Gen. Pervez] Musharraf government had accepted the drone program primarily because they intended to keep it secret.

An occasional strike was easy to keep secret. The Obama administration's escalation of the drones as a means of dealing with terrorist safe havens in Northwest Pakistan complicated the ability of the Pakistani military and intelligence services to keep the program secret.

This was a program whose escalation made secrecy impossible, and Pakistan's leaders were unwilling to have a program that was a little more open. The viable option would have been a joint program, and that was not acceptable to the American side because of their persistent suspicions about Pakistan's intelligence services being deeply penetrated by terrorist sympathizers.

Negating any attempt of thwarting of coup after the killing of Osama bin Laden he said there was no coup attempt in 2011 after the Osama bin Laden raid, and therefore, there was no need to thwart it.

"As ambassador, I had access to almost everybody in Washington, D.C. Why would I need a businessman of dubious credentials to deliver a memo for me? But the fact that such a fantasy-based story found so much traction in Pakistan – that I was forced not only to resign, but that my life was put in jeopardy – shows the pathology of the relationship", he concluded.


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