WASHINGTON (November 19 2008): Seeing a vital opportunity to forge broad-based US-Pakistan relations following victory of President-elect Barack Obama and emergence of a democratic government in Islamabad, a panel of top American experts on Monday urged wider international economic support for the South Asian country as well as focused efforts to address its regional security concerns including Kashmir.
"The United States needs to make a shift in its approach to Pakistan, recognising both the importance of Pakistan to regional and international security, as well as the limitations of US power," a new report released on Monday by the Center for American Progress said, asking the incoming Barack Obama Administration to work with regional and other major powers to help Pakistan overcome its economic and security challenges.
Entitled "Advancing a New Strategy for Prosperity and Stability in Pakistan and the Region," the report has been drafted after a year-long study by about three dozen experts. It particularly underlines the need to foster long-term relations with Pakistan that benefit its people and address disputes on its borders with India and Afghanistan.
"The new US administration, with Congress and the international community, should strive to help Pakistan weaken al Qaeda, the Taliban, and affiliated militant groups so that they no longer threaten stability in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, the broader region, the United States or the world and secure borders between Pakistan and its neighbours, with all border disputes including Kashmir and the Durand Line (the disputed boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan), either resolved or in a credible process for resolution."
At the same time, the panel of security, trade and economic relations experts and foreign policy analysts - including Bruce Riedel, who is now an Obama adviser on South Asia - remind that the "US policy must recognise that the military component alone is insufficient to build stability and security in Pakistan."
They stress pursuance of "a diverse approach, including strengthening governance and rule of law, creating economic opportunities, and exploring political negotiations" to curb militancy. "A fundamental strategic shift in US policy on Pakistan should occur away from a narrow focus on military and intelligence co-operation.
Pakistan's problems will not be solved by military means alone. Long-term stability in Pakistan depends not only on curtailing extremism and militancy in Pakistan, but on strengthening Pakistan's economy and democracy and on reducing tensions between Pakistan and its neighbours. US military approaches must be integrated into a wider political strategy for the region.
"The US government should engage with leaders of Pakistan's civilian institutions and civil society in addition to its military establishment. Integrating the full range of US and other countries' powers diplomatic, economic, and political" the United States should quietly and carefully expand US-Pakistan partnerships on a broad set of issues, including intelligence co-operation, economic development, energy, education assistance, and more.
"The Obama administration should embark on a strategic dialogue with Pakistan that sets common goals for the two countries, building on the major non-Nato ally status it has already achieved. These goals should include both tactical counter-terrorism and longer-term counterinsurgency objectives and should specifically engage Pakistan's security concerns."
The authors note since the Pakistani parliamentary elections in February 2008, the US government has begun to make some changes in its policy toward Pakistan. It has shown support for the new civilian government and increased assistance to the Pakistani people through programmes in education, economy, energy, health care, and more. However, these changes are not sufficient to meet the considerable challenges.
Advocating the need to build trust between the two countries under the new US Administration, experts point out that the "current distrust that the government of Pakistan and its people hold toward the Bush administration has undermined a co-operative Pakistan-US relationship." "Furthermore, the strains between the Bush administration and numerous other countries including our European allies have hurt our nation's efforts to cooperate and co-ordinate on Pakistan".
"The Obama administration has the potential to mend the strained US-Pakistan relationship and offers a fresh opportunity to reach out anew to other strategic players in the region and the world to co-ordinate international efforts on Pakistan."
Despite the seemingly overwhelming challenges facing the country, numerous factors offer an opening for a positive shift in the US-Pakistan relationship. "For the first time in almost a decade, the United States and the world have partners in a democratically elected government of Pakistan. The government has greater legitimacy than previous governments because of February 2008 elections, which were a legitimate expression of the will of the Pakistani people."
"US engagement in Pakistan has been inconsistent, transactional, and reactive for decades. The United States has suspended aid, imposed sanctions, and then intermittently renewed contacts, depending on paramount strategic concerns at the time.
The United States must create a long-term plan to partner with Pakistan, understanding its challenges will not be resolved in the short-term. Even if Osama bin Laden were captured tomorrow in Pakistan, challenges to its stability and the regions would remain," the report says urging President-elect Obama to assist Pakistan in confronting its biggest challenges of insecurity, governance, and economic difficulties.
Launching the report experts including Caroline Wadhams, Senior National Security Policy Analyst, Center for American Progress, Jonah Blank, Chief Policy Advisor for South Asia, Central Asia and Archipelagic Southeast Asia, Majority staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Steve Coll, President & CEO, New America Foundation, Robert L. Grenier, Managing Director and Chairman for Global Security Consulting at Kroll and Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress & Senior Advisor, Center for Defence Information, also agreed on the need for greater trade access for Pakistan, co-operation in the energy field, provision of counter-terrorism equipment like night vision goggles, support by the major powers at Friends of Pakistan forum and backed the Biden-Lugar legislation as way forward to sustained economic partnership.