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Former Pakistani Ambassador To The U.S. Considers Implications Of Trump's Tweet


Today Pakistan's national security committee held an emergency meeting to discuss U.S.-Pakistan relations. This comes a day after President Trump tweeted that the U.S. has, quote, "foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years." He said the U.S. has gotten nothing but lies and deceit in return. To talk more about the implications here, we're joined now on Skype by Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Welcome.

HUSAIN HAQQANI: Pleasure being here.

SHAPIRO: How did you interpret this tweet?

HAQQANI: I think that the tweet reflects a final phase in a long-running divorce proceeding. Pakistan has been unhappy because it has never got what it wanted from the U.S. relationship, which is a greater strength in its rivalry with India. On the other hand, the U.S. has never got what it wanted from Pakistan. Pakistan and the United States have had a transactional relationship.

But the underlying strength that comes from having a shared interest has never been there. Pakistan's focus has been a rivalry and animosity towards India, which has never been America's focus. And so what we have had is a relationship in which both sides either lied to each other or themselves and make a transactional relationship into an alliance.

SHAPIRO: You say this is the last stage of a slowly unfolding divorce and that the relationship has largely been transactional. But doesn't the U.S. still need what it needed from Pakistan before and Pakistan still needs the money that it gets from the U.S.?

HAQQANI: I think that Pakistan's need for money has declined. And similarly, the U.S. need for Pakistan has definitely diminished. Furthermore, Americans have to make a major decision. Is it worth it? Now, when you had more than a hundred thousand troops in Afghanistan, you needed to supply them with a lot of things, and therefore people in Washington calculated the price of paying for flying these things into Afghanistan will be far greater, a few American lives lost. It's not that big a deal. I don't agree with that, but that's how people calculated things.

But I think now not really president Trump but even some of his critics feel that the bargain is no longer a reasonable bargain. And Pakistan has become much closer to China anyway, which it has been for many, many years.

SHAPIRO: If we use your metaphor of divorce and the U.S. decides this relationship is broken and cannot be fixed and the U.S. decides to unilaterally go after Taliban safe havens in Pakistan without the support of the Pakistani government, what would the reaction be from within Pakistan?

HAQQANI: Well, we already are seeing the reaction. There will be the usual reaction, which is street protests, Pakistanis saying this is not acceptable. Pakistan could escalate and try and shoot back. I don't think that that would be very good from the point of view of Pakistan. Look; Pakistan is dysfunctional at many, many levels, and it has set for itself only one goal in 70 years, which is to oppose and compete with India. Now, there are reasons for it, but very frankly, that is the real goal here. So therefore, Pakistan's options are limited.

SHAPIRO: After President Trump's tweet, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said that the U.S. is cutting its aid to Pakistan by more than $200 million. Many people see this as a way of trying to coerce Pakistan into changing its behavior, but you seem to be saying Pakistan won't change its behavior no matter what the U.S. does.

HAQQANI: I think that Pakistan is not going to change its behavior for a few hundred million dollars, whether it is given as an incentive or whether it be drawn as a punishment. I think people in Washington need to think of other ways of coercing Pakistan. Look; Pakistan's military and intelligence leaders think that what they are doing is in Pakistan's national interest. They think that supporting terrorism helps Pakistan have greater strength in the region against India. I don't agree with it. You don't agree with it. The world doesn't agree with it. But that's what they believe.

SHAPIRO: So it sounds like you're saying the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan might be about to get worse, but at least both countries will stop pretending that it's better than it has been.

HAQQANI: I think that the relationship between the two countries is definitely not going to get any better and that the pretense of things becoming better with symbolic changes in Pakistani behavior has actually made that behavior worse and has contributed to the bad relationship underneath that has come to surface in the form of President Trump's tweet.

SHAPIRO: That was Husain Haqqani, former ambassador from Pakistan to the United States now with the Hudson Institute. Thanks so much.

HAQQANI: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.