Former Ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka (1992-1993) and the United States of America (2008-2011), Husain Haqqani is currently Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute. Ambassador Haqqani is also the Director of the Center of International Relations, and Professor of the Practice of International Relations at Boston University. He is the author of Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. In this interview to Sarah Farooqui of Pragati, Ambassador Haqqani talked about the contemporary situation in Pakistan, America’s relationship with Pakistan and India’s role towards Pakistan.
Pragati: How do you look at the current situation in Pakistan? Is there something that gives you hope? Or is it all despair?
Ambassador Haqqani: I don’t think one should ever have a situation over which one should have all despair. Hope is not just a feeling but it is also something you work on and create. My view on Pakistan is that the fact that Pakistan has been resilient, or Pakistanis have been resilient, and we still have a democratic system after five years, gives us an opportunity to continue a debate in Pakistan that has never taken place — which is, what is the best interest in Pakistan and how do we make Pakistan a prosperous nation that cares for its people? And that debate has just started.
Pragati: In your book, you had spoken of the alliance between the Mosque and the Military. Now it seems to be between the Maulana, the Mujahid and the Military. How will this nexus be broken? What is the way out?
Ambassador Haqqani: The problem with all alliances is that they are based on some shared interest. They always end only when those interests end. I think that Pakistan has come to great harm as a result of the alliance between our state apparatus and religious extremists and the realisation on the part of a vast majority of Pakistanis that this alliance is harmful is the only way that this alliance is going to come to an end.
Pragati: You have advocated that the best way in which the United States of America can help Pakistan is by divorcing Pakistan. That seems unlikely in the short-term. But what would you advice India to do to help Pakistan? Rather, is there something that India can do to help Pakistan?
Ambassador Haqqani: First let me say that I have never advocated that the United States should divorce Pakistan but rather that both should consider divorcing each other. Because it is not in Pakistan’s interest to develop a culture of total dependence on a foreign power like the United States and it is certainly not in America’s interest to encourage Pakistan to continue to be dominated by military concerns alone. Only when the United States stops being the external patron, will Pakistan be able to focus on its internal issues and in an honest manner.
As far as India is concerned, I think India just needs to just make it clear that it does not see Pakistan and its own relations with Pakistan through the prism of partition and that it looks towards an era or cooperation with a neighbour with whom it has had a difficult relationship. An overwhelming number of Pakistanis need to be convinced that the existential threat to Pakistan comes from poverty, disease and ignorance and not from India and that is the best way India can be helpful not only to Pakistan but also to a more prosperous south Asia that has closer relations between all countries in the region.
Pragati: There is lot of concern in the region about how the situation will develop once the NATO withdraws from Afghanistan in 2014. What is your assessment of how it is going to pan out — for Afghanistan, for Pakistan, for India and for the region in general?
Ambassador Haqqani: The best course for Afghanistan is to let the Afghans determine their own future. Afghanistan has suffered greatly because of external powers trying to decide its future. Only when the Afghans are in charge will Afghanistan be able to find stability. It is not going to be a perfect outcome from the point of view of any of the international powers but Afghanistan’s slide or descent into the current chaos started with direct soviet intervention and the effort to counter it that was backed by the United States. The United States should not leave Afghanistan in a precipitous manner in which the Afghan government is unable to takeover the critical security functions. But eventually the most important role that NATO and the United States can play in Afghanistan is to make sure that when they leave, Afghanistan does not become the battleground of regional powers.