"Certain Pakistani groups clearly target Pakistan’s own military and even the ISI", says Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani
After detailing linkages between the Pakistani military establishment and jihadi networks, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani – who was hustled out of office – is in India to promote his second book, Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding which will be released worldwide on November 5. The Hindu caught up with him in Delhi. Excerpts:
Do you plan to tour Pakistan to promote your book?
I would love to but my decision will depend upon how secure I feel about returning to Pakistan at this point. I do not see any legal impediment to my return because I have not been charged with anything and no criminal proceedings of any sort are pending against me. That said, the entire unfortunate “Memogate fabrication” — I make a distinction between it being a scam — has put my life in danger because of the perception that was created about my having been either an American lackey or a Pakistani willing to act in treasonous conduct. If the Governor of Punjab was killed because he was falsely accused of sympathising with blasphemers and a young child like Malala Yousafzai was shot at for wanting to go to school, I do not feel completely safe about returning.
Do you buy the Pakistani establishment’s claim that many of the terrorist organisations are out of its control?
It is partly true. Ideological movements always splinter over fine points of ideology. The jihadis are no exception. For years, jihadis have debated whether their priority should be to fight the far enemy (i.e. the U.S. and other major powers) or the near enemy (i.e. the regimes propped up by the U.S.). Certain Pakistani groups clearly target Pakistan’s own military and even the ISI. It is possible those groups considered “reliable” (like the LeT) can work together with those deemed out of control (like al-Qaeda). Pakistan has to decide once and for all that terrorists are enemies of the state, otherwise they will continue to be a threat for Pakistan, notwithstanding who trained or armed them for what purpose and when.
Do you see the Pakistani civilian government taking full charge of strategic affairs in the future?
Civilian control will eventually materialise. Already the military is no longer able to think about taking over directly. But the military still dominates the national narrative in strategic affairs. The debate is manipulated through the media and by painting dissenting voices as anti-state. Civilians will be able to take charge when they start developing their own narrative and lay out a clear vision for strategic affairs.
Do you believe India-Pakistan tensions will escalate post-2014? After the withdrawal of foreign troops, will India find it difficult to continue with its presence in Afghanistan?
The logic of Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan has always been linked to the fear of encirclement by India. Even if India has no military or security presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s establishment will see it as a threat. It is unrealistic to expect India to not trade with Afghanistan or for Afghans to not accept Indian assistance. But given the mindset of our strategic planners, I fear an escalation in India-Pakistan tensions after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, our state institutions do not seem to agree that the best way for Pakistan to have a friendly government in Afghanistan is by befriending the government in Afghanistan instead of trying to impose one.
Coming to your book, you describe U.S.-Pakistan history as an epic in misunderstanding. How so?
My argument is that Pakistan misunderstood its significance for the U.S. by assuming that America will embrace its concerns about India and help build it up as a regional power against India. Great powers cannot be built solely by other nations’ aid or arms and in any case the U.S. never accepted Pakistan’s view of India. The American misunderstanding was that if only it provided aid to Pakistan it would be able to get Pakistan to align its world view with the U.S. over time. Pakistan and the U. S. never really accepted that their interests and priorities did not converge, which explains the cycles of engagement and estrangement. On the one hand, Pakistanis have grown to be dependent on the U.S. and on the other they are bitter about that dependence because it does not allow them to fully exercise what the Pakistani establishment considers to be its national interests. In some ways, the U.S.-Pakistan alliance offers a lesson on how not to conduct international relations based on unreal or falsified expectations.
Did you start working on this book while you were ambassador to the U.S.?
The idea of looking at why Pakistan is the only American ally from the Cold War era that did not become an economic success story and remains in a state of constant grievance against the U.S. was a question I always wanted to examine. Taiwan, South Korea and Turkey became U.S. allies during the Cold War. They have all prospered. But Pakistan during this 66-year period has ended up losing more than half its population, and a little under half of its territory, has fought wars without winning them and does not have the kind of robust economy other American partners have had. As Ambassador I got insights that helped me write the book but a lot of the material is archival and historical, drawn from declassified documents and other sources.
Keywords: Hussain Haqqani book, Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, former Pak Ambassador to US, Memogate, war on terror, US-Pakistan relations, ISI