Tag Archives: Council on Foreign Relations

The Fourth Option For US-Pakistan Relations

Joe Biden, Nawaz Sharif, John Kerry, ShahbazSharif

As 2014, and the eventual withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan that will come with it, rapidly approaches, analysts in Washington are working to influence the direction of US policy in the region. Unfortunately, much of what is being bandied about as a new direction looks an awful lot like the well-worn path that brought us where we are today. With the recent handover of power between two democratic governments, it’s time to try something new with Pakistan.

In response to a question about the key constructs of the US engagement with Pakistan post-2014, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Dan Markey recently outlined three options for the US:

  • The United States would devote the bulk of its efforts to protecting itself from Pakistan-based threats (terrorism, nuclear weapons, and general instability) by relying on coercion, deterrence, and closer military cooperation with neighboring India and Afghanistan.
  • The United States would focus on cultivating a businesslike negotiating relationship with Pakistan’s military—still Pakistan’s most powerful institution—in order to advance specific U.S. counterterrorism and nuclear goals.
  • The United States would work with and provide support to Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership as well as civil society in ways that would, over time, tip the scales in favor of greater stability in Pakistan and more peaceful relations between Pakistan and its neighbors, Afghanistan, Iran, India, and China.

At the end of his piece, Markey recommends a combination of all three strategies. But this is exactly the strategy that the US has been pursuing, and to little success. There are several reasons why this policy cannot work. First of all, partnering with India in a policy of coercion is mutually exclusive to developing a productive relationship with Pakistan. More importantly, though, Markey’s recommendations place too much emphasis on continuing to focus on relations with Pakistan’s powerful military at the expense of the democratically elected civilian government. And it is the democratically elected civilian government that is key to ending Pakistan’s problem with militancy.

Nawaz Sharif, having already experienced the consequences of military adventurism during his previous time as Prime Minister, has demonstrated a willingness to confront Pakistan’s military about its alleged involvement with extremist militants. Following the discover of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif was one of the few politicians to demand answers from the military about how the world’s most wanted man could live undetected for years just outside the Kakul Military Academy. And his pursuit of treason charges against former military dictator Pervez Musharraf has united civilian politicians across party lines despite the concerns of some former military officers.

Since being elected Prime Minister earlier this year, Nawaz Sharif has also pursued improved relations with India, including continuing the policy of improving bilateral trade and economic cooperation begun under the previous government.

Dan Markey’s approach would threaten the progress that is currently being made by breathing new life into military dominance just as the civilians are starting to get a strong foothold, and driving a wedge into Pakistan-India relations just as they are on the brink of a breakthrough.

Rather than reprise past policies, the US should take the fourth option: Treating the democratically elected civilian government as the legitimate policy-making authority; providing significant support for civil society by investing in domestic capacity building for key areas including education, energy, and law enforcement; and using its growing influence to reassure India that continuing to work towards improved trade and economic relations are the most effective path towards boosting Pakistan’s national security perception and eliminating its reliance on militant groups as part of their national security strategy.

For decades, the US has pursued a relationship that overemphasizes the military’s power, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the military is “still Pakistan’s most powerful institution” at the expense of democratic progress, civil development, and regional security. It’s time to try something new.

Roots of Anti-Americanism in Pakistan

U.S.-Pakistan ties deteriorated significantly in the past year, and the anti-American rhetoric in Pakistani media (NYT), especially television, reached a crescendo. Najam Sethi, an award-winning Pakistani journalist and editor-in-chief of Geo News and the English political weekly Friday Times, says U.S. counterterrorism policies in Pakistan have caused this acrimony. The two countries, he says, have failed to develop a strategic relationship because of each side’s refusal to consider the other’s national security interests in Afghanistan.

Calling the development of Pakistan’s media “a work in progress;” Sethi says the anti-American and anti-Indian narrative runs more fiercely in the Urdu-language press. “English media is more liberal, rational, and oriented towards pragmatism” but do not reach as wide an audience as the other regional media, he says.

At the same time, Sethi points to attempts by the army to manipulate the media. The media’s main threats come from ethnic, jihadi, and sectarian groups, “some of which are patronized by the national security establishment,” he says.

Asma Jahangir discusses US-Pakistan relations and the fragility of Pakistan’s democracy

Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir discusses U.S.-Pakistan relations and the fragility of the Pakistani democracy. Jahangir criticizes the United States for sending mixed messages to Pakistanis, saying “the U.S. has to be very clear on what it wants from us.” Jahangir also emphasizes the need for the U.S. to prioritize Pakistani interests in order to improve cooperation. “As an individual ordinary citizen of Pakistan, I want to hear from them that what they want us to do is for the benefit of larger humanity rather than their own, or alone their, security concerns,” she says.

It's the Economy…

Textiles

Bill Clinton knew it. Hu Jintao certainly knows it. Barack Obama is learning it the hard way. And if we really want to ensure democracy and justice in Pakistan, Congress needs to figure this out, too: It’s the economy, stupid.

Pakistan’s democratic government continues to suffer incredible attacks from militant extremists. Just last week, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – a terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan – attacked a security compound in Karachi killing at least 18 and wounding over 100. And this was only the latest in a wave of deadly attacks that have plagued the city in recent months.

Karachi is financial heart of Pakistan. That may be one reason terrorist militants are so keen to destroy it. Undermining stability in Karachi has a direct impact on foreign investment in Pakistan; undermining the nation’s economy undermines support for the democratic government. It creates a feeling of hopelessness and frustration that militants use to recruit new foot soldiers.

Discussing the nation’s education system, Pakistani analyst Mosharraf Zaidi told PBS Frontline that a lack of economic opportunity can have dire consequences.

“You look at the consequences of these kids not going to school — and let’s set aside the fearmongering and the scare-mongering of saying, you know, ‘What if all these kids become terrorists?’ Setting that aside, the real problem is that, if you aren’t capable of participating in the global economy, you will be very, very poor. And desperate and extreme poverty has some diabolical consequences for societies and for individuals.”

Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes that one of the keys to creating peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is economic stimulus for the region through trade liberalization.

Struggling economically, Pakistan needs such a shot in the arm, and a trade deal could arguably do even more than aid at this point.

Over the weekend, the US and Pakistan agreed to cooperate on a new $375 million wind farm near Karachi to provide 150 megawatts of power. This is a good start. Projects of this nature go beyond mere aid and create sustainable infrastructure that can reduce Pakistan’s dependence on foreign energy supplies while also providing a much needed boost to employment.

This is a good start, but the US needs to do more if we’re going to continue to have a strong relationship with the South Asian power. Pakistan’s president Zardari is no American puppet, and he has been making successful overtures to Chinese investors keen to profit from Pakistan’s unrealized potential.

The President said that there existed a great potential between Pakistan and China to further expand their bilateral trade and Pakistan was keen to welcome greater Chinese investment in the country.

He said that Pakistan and China have established a Joint Investment Company (JIC) with the help of China Development Bank to assist joint ventures and signed the Free Trade Agreement on goods and services, which were helping integration of Pakistani and Chinese economies.

The President said that the Government has put in place policies directed towards rapid economic growth, employment generation, poverty alleviation and encouragement of the private sector.

And it’s not only the cash-flush Chinese who are looking – the UK is also beginning to see the potential of investment in Pakistan.

[British Deputy High Commissioner] Robert Gibson pointed out that British entrepreneurs working in Pakistan were having continued interest to work and safeguard their businesses and were looking forward to opportunities to further increase their operations by expanding existing projects and explore new avenues for investment.

The US can begin its program of economic investment by liberalizing trade, specifically through granting preferential market status to Pakistani textiles, a policy encouraged in a new report by the Council on Foreign Relations.

“To reinforce US-Pakistan ties and contribute to Pakistan’s economic stability in the aftermath of an overwhelming natural disaster, the Obama administration should prioritize and the Congress should enact agreement that would grant preferential market access to Pakistani textiles,” former deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger, stress in the report.

This agreement would help revive the Pakistani industry and all of the associated sectors of the economy, including Pakistan-grown cotton, the report adds.

Additionally, Congress should revisit legislation establishing Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ), a bill first introduced by President Bush and passed by House Democrats in 2009.

Conventional wisdom says that American policy towards Pakistan should involve ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks.’ This thinking is misguided. Targeted aid packages like Kerry-Lugar and flood assistance are necessary, but not sufficient if the goal is to develop a strong and lasting partnership. Pakistan has demonstrated that it will not be a client state, nor should any such outcome be at the heart of American foreign policy. Only by developing economic partnerships that benefit both countries will lasting trust be established. Investment in Pakistan may involve certain risks at this time, but ignoring this opportunity poses greater risks still.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Explains Why Open Markets Support Democracy

Pakistani foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke at CFR, where he discussed the regional development challenges that Pakistan faces due to the catastrophic floods, the need for constructive dialogue with India and Afghanistan, the strengthening relationship with the United States, as well as the fight against terrorism.

Media Should Focus On Pakistan Flood, Not Quran Burning Pastor

Pakistan continues to suffer from the historic flooding that submerged over a fifth of the nation.  With over 2o million people displaced by the disaster, and billions of dollars in damage, it is disgraceful how little attention is being paid to the ongoing effects of the floods.

As we posited recently, media headlines – or the lack thereof – are considered a major reason why humanitarian relief is not coming as quickly as it should.

What is more disgraceful, though, is that the American media appears to be giving more attention to the Florida pastor who is organizing an event to burn Qurans than to the needs of Pakistani people.

A search of Google News this morning returned 9,921 links for the keywords “Quran Burning” over the past week, and only 5,854 links for the keywords “Pakistan floods”. This is shameful.

The United Nations has declared the Pakistan flooding the worst humanitarian crisis ever. It presently affects over 21 million people. While the death-toll has, thankfully, been relatively low, the destruction has been immense. With over 20 percent of the nation submerged by flood waters, houses, crops, business, and national infrastructure has been destroyed across the nation. And the disaster is growing.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said earlier this week that,

“Everything I saw and heard today confirmed that this disaster — already one of the largest the world has seen — is still getting bigger.”

The Council on Foreign Relations has warned that, beyond the immediate human suffering caused by the floods, the disaster threatens the stability of a close American ally.

The deadliest floods in Pakistan’s sixty-three-year history have killed over 1,600 and affected nearly fourteen million people. The devastation is sorely testing the government’s capacity, and setbacks are likely in its efforts toward economic growth and development, fight against militancy, and the country’s civil-military relations.

Despite the clear and present danger posed by ignoring Pakistan’s need for relief and reconstruction, the American media has focused more on the publicity stunt of a small-time extremist. Rather than give a platform for the divisive and destructive antics of small-time fanatics, agenda setting media organizations should devote more time and resources to raising awareness and promoting constructive solutions to the needs of our friend and ally, Pakistan, in this their time of need.