WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the United States, which have been fighting terrorism jointly since 9/11, realize that an enduring and broad-based relationship is in their mutual security interest as well as politically beneficial for both, Islamabad’s ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani said.
“There are important qualitative differences between previous periods of friendship and present partnership. This time the process is led by a popularly elected democratic government in Pakistan,” Haqqani told a gathering at the City Club of Cleveland.
The diplomat was characterizing in his speech the current state of relationship between the two countries, which stands in contrast with the past periods of engagement during which Pakistan always had dictatorial regimes.
The relationship is at present as strong and as vibrant as it has ever been in the last six decades, said the ambassador, who in his presentation cited the high-level Strategic Dialogue and such measures as Kerry-Lugar-Berman Economic Assistance program.
These steps signify that Islamabad and Washington are clearly moving away from the past security-centered and transactional nature of relations to a much broader wide-ranging partnership, he said.
Underscoring Pakistan’s importance and economic potential in the region, aside from the ongoing fight against violent extremism, Haqqani pointed out that the country is a nation of 180 million consumers, a country that is about twice the size of California.
“Such a country needs goods, services, infrastructure, motor vehicles, railway wagons, passenger aircraft, a communications network, power stations, dams, bridges and roads etc.”
Pakistan offers tremendous economic opportunity. Even in these difficult times McDonalds, KFC, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Procter and Gamble and many other U.S. companies are doing good business in Pakistan.
“There is room for many more,” he noted emphatically.
There are also larger political dividends to the US investment in Pakistan, the ambassador argued strongly.
Pakistan is one of the few genuine democracies in the Muslim world, Haqqani remarked.
“It has the freest press and the most independent judiciary. It has a vigorous and vibrant civil society. Above all there is a parliament that has shaken off the last vestiges of authoritarian rule and has reclaimed all its powers.”
A sound Pakistan-US relationship in which democracy is the most visible link between the two countries will serve as in inspiration for other Muslim countries, the diplomat emphasized.
“Just as Pakistan provided the US with the first breakthrough in China, it may well be that Pakistan will provide the portal for the US to reach the hearts and minds of the world’s Muslims.”