New Delhi: Pakistan should become a “trading nation rather than a warrior nation” while ensuring it does not turn into China’s pawn, Islamabad’s former envoy to the US, Husain Haqqani said.
In an interview to PTI, Mr Haqqani said Pakistan also needs to take a call on what is more important supporting terror suspect Hafiz Saeed or gaining international credibility and respect.
Amid the consolidation of the already-robust Sino-Pak ties, Mr Haqqani, who served as ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2011, stressed Pakistan should not go from being dependent on the US to relying on China and must refrain from becoming a “Chinese pawn”.
Pakistan needs to build a self-sustaining economy, he said, warning Islamabad of the pitfalls of aligning with a major power.
Mr Haqqani, who was in India last week for the launch of his new book ‘Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State’, said the country needs to “re-think its overall direction”, including in the economic sector.
Pakistan should become a “trading nation rather than a warrior nation” and start thinking about geo-economics rather than geo strategy, said the 61-year-old former diplomat and author of ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military’ and ‘India v Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?’, among other books.
“Trying to take advantage of its strategic location by allowing itself to be used by one major power or another has brought Pakistan to the present situation and if we continue to play the same game, the result is not going to be very different in the future, he said.
While Islamabad should seek good relations with Beijing, “there is no reason why Pakistan should become a Chinese pawn in the mistaken belief” that this would somehow make it a power in its own right, he said when asked if Pakistan’s dependence on China could prove counterproductive.
His remarks assume significance as in January, the US had suspended more than USD 1.15 billion security assistance to Pakistan, accusing it of harbouring terror groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Afghan guerilla group Haqqani Network.
After US President Donald Trump had lashed out at Pakistan earlier this year for providing “safe havens” to terrorists, China had defended Islamabad, saying the world community should acknowledge its all-weather ally’s “outstanding contribution” to counter terrorism.
Asked if America’s tougher stance against terror would push Islamabad into a robust military alliance with Beijing, Mr Haqqani said the more America and India came close, the more Pakistan would try to strengthen its ties with China.
“But, for Pakistan’s own sake, it would be useful to have relationships with multiple partners. Dependence on the US did not prove useful for Pakistan in the 50s and 60s, dependence on China will not necessarily be the key to Pakistan’s progress in the 21st century,” said Mr Haqqani, who lives in the US, where he is Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.
Mr Haqqani was removed as Pakistan’s envoy to the US for his alleged role in what is known as the Memogate controversy, which revolved around a memorandum seeking help from the Obama administration after the killing of Osama bin Laden to avert a military takeover of the civilian government in his country.
Asked if the suspension of American aid had brought about a change in Pakistan’s attitude, Mr Haqqani said the establishment had not changed its world view and was still hoping that logistical and other considerations would make the Trump administration soften its stance.
On the possibility of power blocs being formed in the region, he said a “new Cold War” in which Pakistan aligns with China and India with the United States was not going to be positive for South Asia.
“I think that aligning with one major power against another is not the recipe for economic growth and success for a country like Pakistan,” said Mr Haqqani, who also served as the Pakistani envoy to Sri Lanka from 1992 to 1993.
The former diplomat, who is often critical of the Pakistani military, rued that the power structure in the country had not changed fundamentally and national security and foreign policy remained in the hands of the Army.
Pakistan has made distinctions between terror groups that have acted against it and those that have acted outside the country, and that distinction had not worked to its advantage, he said.
Islamabad’s insistence on “mainstreaming terrorists” rather than marginalising them was going to be counter-productive for the country, he held.
Mr Haqqani also said the Kashmir issue could be put on the back burner to build normalise Indo-Pak relations.
“It is also a reality that the problem of Kashmir has not been solved in 70 years. And if Pakistan insists on solving the Kashmir problem before moving forward on normal relations with India, then it may have to wait for another 70 years,” he said.