Tag Archives: United States Institute of Peace

Rep. McDermott Speaks About the Path to Normalizing Pakistan-India Relations

Rep. Jim McDermottCongressman Jim McDermott was the keynote speaker at a panel discussion at the United States institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington DC earlier this week. The discussion, “The Quest for India Pakistan normalization: The Road Ahead,” examined key challenges to opportunities for India and Pakistan to work together towards mutual peace and prosperity, and what role – if any – the US can play in facilitating dialogue between the two South Asian powers.

Rep. McDermott served as a Foreign Service medical officer in Congo, and is a founding member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, which remains one of the largest country caucuses in the House of Representatives. His unique experience in developing countries has informed his views on the critical role of U.S government in helping countries build global coalitions and address global challenges.

During his keynote speech, Congressman McDermott observed that, when attitudes become habitual, it is extremely difficult to change them. This is particularly true in the case of Pakistan and India due to ongoing tensions that have existed since the two countries gained independence in 1947. For this reason, Rep. McDermott noted, dialogue is crucial to improving bilateral relations.

According to Rep. McDermott, the US needs to stop sending mixed signals to Pakistan. The sensitive geo-political environment exacerbates misunderstandings. He noted that the only example a working bilateral treaty between Pakistan and India is the Indus River treaty – one that was drafted without over US intervention. In fact, he said, when his team inquired about the dynamics of the treaty in the past, both Pakistani and Indian officials discouraged the US from becoming involved. This demonstrated, he concluded, that Pakistan and India are capable of working together, and that often overt US intervention can actually be an obstacle to successful dialogue.

Rep. McDermott also mentioned his distaste for the term “AfPak”. According to the Congressman, “AfPak” gives the impression that the US has a narrow counterterrorism focus in the region, ignoring the important development work that is aimed at improving the health, education, and economic opportunities of all Pakistanis.

When discussing cross border tensions, Rep. McDermott gave the example of fishermen being arrested and jailed for accidentally crossing an invisible border in the open water. Fishermen from both sides are often held for years despite the fact the fishermen’s only fault lie in trying to earn a living. This example tied into Rep. McDermott’s second major point, which was that economic cooperation can be a catalyst for cooling political tensions.

Congressman McDermott urged Pakistan’s political leaders and opinion-makers to also focus on economic development and opportunities and expand the middle class – a crucial element of social and political reform. Projects that foster regional economic connectivity, such as the proposed Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline which would transport natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India, he said, can benefit all nations in the region as well as build a foundation of trust and cooperation that can aid in resolving more difficult issues.

Congressman McDermott concluded his remarks saying that, though the task is enormous, it is not impossible. Where there is political will and neutral third party facilitation, Pakistan–India relations can be transformed from one based in mutual suspicion to one of mutual benefit. While the US can play a facilitating role, however, it should be one that respects the centrality of Pakistan and India in determining their own futures.

The Future of Pakistan

USIP logoThe Pakistani government has proven more resilient than the predictions of its detractors, overcoming challenges that would have toppled a less formidable coalition – devastating floods of historic proportions, constant assault against its citizens from terrorist groups, and a domestic media that at times seems more like an opposition political group than an objective observer. As 2011 gets underway, the question of what the future holds for Pakistan is as relevant as ever.

Tomorrow, the nation’s top experts on Pakistan will convene at the United States Institute of Peace to discuss the factors shaping Pakistan’s future, possible outcomes, and policy implications and recommendations for US–Pakistan relations as our partnership grows.

At the outset of 2011, Pakistan’s future looks more uncertain than ever. The country is facing myriad challenges, including a deep-rooted political crisis, a weakening economy buoyed by immense foreign aid, and a hardening of divisions between extremists and moderates. Events during the past month only underscore some these trends. Examining Pakistan’s possible future is subsequently a daunting task. Yet, the country is certain to remain central to U.S. interests and thus such an exercise is necessary for informed U.S. policy making. The Brookings Institution, supported by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and Norwegian Peace Foundation (NOREF), attempted to do so in 2010. The results were in part the Bellagio Papers, a compilation of 15 scholarly writings analyzing various aspects of Pakistan’s future.

Join USIP and Brookings for a conference centering on these possibilities and problems as the experts involved in the Bellagio project join other prominent scholars on Pakistan to examine the critical questions regarding Pakistan’s future and U.S. interests in the country.

This event will feature the following experts:

  • Jonah Blank
    Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Stephen Cohen
    The Brookings Institution
  • Wendy Chamberlain
    The Middle East Institute
  • Christine Fair
    Georgetown University
  • Amb. William Milam
    Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Shuja Nawaz
    The Atlantic Council
  • Bruce Riedel
    The Brookings Institution
  • Joshua White
    Johns Hopkins SAIS
  • Andrew Wilder
    U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Huma Yusuf
    Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Moeed Yusuf
    U.S. Institute of Peace

The discussion gets underway at 12:30pm. The event will be webcast at www.usip.org/webcast and Americans for Democracy & Justice in Pakistan will live-Tweet the discussion at @USAforPAK.

Promoting democracy in Pakistan, a discussion

The Center for American Progress hosted a discussion yesterday between three experts on Pakistan’s political situation and the effects of US policy in the region. Shuja Nawaz, Director, South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council; Haider Mullick, Fellow, U.S. Joint Special Operations University and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; and Moeed W. Yusuf, South Asia Adviser, United States Institute of Peace Center, Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention addressed what the US is doing to help empower the people of Pakistan to decide their own fate – and what changes to US policy are necessary to ensure that we stay on track for a long and mutually productive relationship.