The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is based on outdated Cold War geopolitics and contradictory interests, South Asia experts told a congressional committee on Tuesday.
"After spending billions of dollars in the region and losing thousands of American lives and many multiples of Afghan and Pakistani lives, we are still grasping for a grand strategy," said Shuja Nawaz, Director of the South Asia Center, at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"It is time to change that strategy," he added.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Californian Republican, said South Asia is governed by the relationships of "democratic India, bankrupt Pakistan and communist China," which "is always there, stirring the pot." U.S. alliances with India and Pakistan will determine America's security, he said.
"The two major threats that face the United States today are radical Islam and China, which is emerging not as a friendly power but instead as a hostile power to the United States," Mr. Rohrbacher said.
He added that if Pakistan develops stronger relations with China, the United States should turn its attention toward India, Pakistan's regional rival.
Pakistan's relationship with China includes a peculiar approach toward terrorism, said Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute.
"China has been quite happy to live with a Pakistan whose government has, in fact, aided and abetted Islamic terrorism. China has not used its influence to end this," Mr. Dhume said.
"The Chinese, at a conceptual level, don't want to have radical Islam in its territory, but they're willing to play a sophisticated game that tolerates these elements."
The United States should increase economic and international political pressure on Pakistan to prevent it from harboring terrorism groups, the experts said.
These additional measures must be taken carefully however, because any sanctions on Pakistan would affect the war in Afghanistan as well, Mr. Dhume warned.
Eighty to 90 percent of logistical support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan goes through Pakistan, said John Tkacik, former chief analyst for China at the State Department.
"If you were to put pressure on Pakistan, I can imagine what kind of pressure Pakistan could put on us," he said. "If you want to have leverage on Pakistan, you have to remove leverage on us."
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, nominated to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said at a separate hearing on Tuesday that Pakistan is an essential ally in the U.S. War on Terror that cannot be alienated completely.
"We also have an interest in stable Pakistan and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology," Mr. Dempsey said.
"Our partnership with Pakistan in the context of the greater South Asia region holds great potential for security, economic advancement, and stability."
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