News - India and South Asia Project

Ambassador of Pakistan to the US: "Now is the ideal time to reset relations."

| Apr. 27, 2017

 “There is every reason for deepening this tie. Now is the ideal time to reset relations,” said Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, the newly appointed Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States in his opening remarks at a South Asia Week event on April 27.

Only two days after presenting his credentials to President Trump, he expressed optimism about the ability to move a historically difficult relationship forward. He was particularly positive about the ability to advance the relationship around questions of security in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border areas.  “The prevailing perception among the U.S. foreign policy establishment is lagging behind the reality in Pakistan, where there is a consensus around the Pakistani role in fighting terrorism.” He cited recent efforts by the Pakistani armed forces to clear terrorist bases from ungoverned territories on the Afghan border, where many such groups took refuge after 9/11, as evidence of this consensus.

Chaudhry also spoke about Pakistan’s impressive economic gains in recent years as an opportunity for closer economic cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistani business communities. The country has increased its rates of GDP per capita, decreased its debt rating, and improved its credit rating over the past several years. Chaudhry said that “the beam of connectivity that is sweeping Asia is also sweeping Pakistan,” referencing the country’s plans to form China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and participate in the China-led One Belt One Road project. Such projects, said Chaudhry, presented an opportunity for the US and Pakistan to cultivate a more broad-based relationship that extends beyond transactional security agreements.

Responding to the Ambassador’s remarks, the Dean of the Fredrick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, Adil Najam, noted in contrast that “U.S. and Pakistan relations are at as low a point as they have ever been,” after “70 years of permanent and constant reset.” Najam said that while the propensity for constant reset indicates a mutual interest in bettering the relationship,  the failure to reach a set point is due to “a failure of diplomacy and a failure of scholarship.”

The failure of diplomacy, he said, could be seen in the tendency for U.S. officials to collaborate with Pakistani military leaders to a greater extent than political leaders or diplomats, and vice versa. “Washington goes to the brass to get things done,” he said, “and Pakistan invests in this reality, strengthening the dynamic.” Last week, he pointed out, it was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, rather than Rex Tillerson, who made a visit to the region. However, he said that the appointment of Ambassador Chaudhry, former Foreign Minister of Pakistan as Ambassador to the US was a step in the right direction, as it indicated the Pakistani government’s commitment to high-level diplomatic engagement.

Najam also indicated that the lack of progress in US-Pakistan relations is due to a failure of scholarship. “There has been a lot of literature about what has happened without analysis of the foreign policy theory behind it,” he said of academic work on the region. Furthermore, he said, scholars are seen as representatives of the Pakistani government, and often relay an “official narrative.” Instead, he called for a more honest relationship between the two nations, and eventually one based on bilateral cooperation, rather than geostrategic concerns and transactional agreements. “When Pakistani senior officials can talk to U.S. senior officials for thirty minutes without mentioning a third country, then the relationship is in a good place,” he said. “If the relationship is based on a happenstance of geography, then it is not a real relationship.”

While Ambassador Chaudhry saw the inclusion of other nations’ concerns in the US-Pakistani dialogue as a positive attribute that reflects the country’s global mindset, he shared in Dean Najam’s hope that diplomacy will play a greater role in the relationship going forward. “I am happy that the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Kennedy School exists,” he said, “because we need more engagement, not less.”

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For Academic Citation: Liliana Harrington. “Ambassador of Pakistan to the US: "Now is the ideal time to reset relations.".” News, India and South Asia Project, April 27, 2017.