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EMBASSY ROW: Bad marriage

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2012

U.S.-Pakistan relations are so bad that the two countries should get a diplomatic divorce, but they could still date each other once in a while.

That was the message Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, delivered this week at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest.

"If, in 65 years, you haven't been able to find sufficient common ground to live together, and you had three separations and four reaffirmations of marriage, then maybe the better way is to find friendship outside of the marital bond," he said.

Pakistan is a key link in the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan. The South Asian nation hosts a major supply depot for NATO troops fighting the Taliban, although Pakistan shut down the facility for eight months to protest a deadly border skirmish with U.S. forces that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead in November.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials frequently press Pakistan to control its lawless border area with Afghanistan to stop the Taliban and other terror groups from launching attacks on NATO forces.

Washington also suspects that officials in Islamabad's spy service sheltered al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden until Navy SEALs last year killed the world's most wanted terrorist, who was hiding in a Pakistani garrison town.

Pakistan, meanwhile, repeatedly complains about U.S. drone strikes against terror targets within its borders.

Mr. Haqqani noted that those tensions are just the latest eruptions in a historically troubled diplomatic relationship.

"Anti-Americanism in Pakistan is more deeply rooted than most people are willing to acknowledge," he said in an email Thursday to Embassy Row. "It is not the result of any single event or action, for example drone strikes. Pakistanis burned down the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in 1979 and attacked U.S. buildings in 1965."

A Pew Research Center poll in June found that 75 percent of Pakistanis view the U.S. as an enemy even though Washington has sent Islamabad about $20 billion in aid since 2001.

"The real reason for anti-Americanism is unfulfilled expectations," Mr. Haqqani said in his email. "As an ally, Pakistan expects the U.S. to help it in its regional confrontations. The U.S. keeps Pakistan's hopes alive by making gestures that do not fully satisfy Pakistanis."

Pakistan's main South Asian rival is India.

Both countries have nuclear weapons, and they have fought four wars with each other since Pakistan became independent of India in 1947.

Mr. Haqqani said Pakistan cannot expect the United States to support it in a future conflict with India, and Washington cannot expect Islamabad to give up its nuclear weapons.

He said he is proposing a new relationship based "on realism, not false expectations."

"The national security and foreign relations priorities of Pakistan and the United States do not match," he said. "It is unrealistic to expect that Pakistan's military leaders will give up what they consider to be the country's core national interests in return for U.S. aid. Similarly, Pakistan should not expect the United States to see the world or the region through Pakistan's eyes."

He called on the two nations "to start looking beyond alliance and acknowledge the differences while building relations on existing common ground."

Mr. Haqqani, director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, resigned as ambassador in November after he was accused of seeking Pentagon help for Pakistan's civilian government in case of a military coup. He has denied any role in the affair and says his chief accuser, Pakistani-American businessman Mansour Ijaz, concocted the entire affair.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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