Conversation with Ambassador Cameron Munter
January 15, 2019
“To give the Pakistan-United States relationship a chance, my argument would be to solve the existing problems through investment and re-building the trust and allow the governments to follow.”This was stated by Ambassador Cameron Munter, President of the East West Institute (EWI), New York and Brussels, during his address at a Public Talk organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) in collaboration with Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR) today. Dignitaries present on the occasion comprised of ambassadors, policy makers, journalists and businessmen.
Ambassador Munter stated that it is important to think about the historical background of the Pak-US relations, but it is equally important to think about the future and try to speculate the strengths and possibilities of the future. He said that there was an overemphasis on two problems: how the US looks at Pakistan through an Afghan lens and how the rift between the two countries is made out to be an entirely bilateral issue. For either problem to become an institutional context of an entire relationship is a problem because,in essence, multilateral dimensions are involved. He also talked a bit about the East West Institute, which, he said, is key to the future of the relationship between the US and Pakistan. The best way forward is by bringing in thinkers, policymakers and the youth to collectively and patiently work towards a brighter future, he said.
He went on to say that each country has its own sets of problems. However, both the US and Pakistan have enormous philanthropic traditions. Each has a huge pool of talented and educated people. Hence, they need to utilize these assets, look at a long term vision and make an investment in the future. He lamented that given the old rhetoric, building the relationship, this will be an uphill task. The relationship is sometimes viewed as a zero-sum game, which is one of the problems. One way this can be done is by building ties in institutions – a non-state institution can get those goals achieved, which the government aspires for, he said.
Earlier, in his welcome remarks, Chairman BOG ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood,stated that it is evident that extreme polarity has been the hallmark of the relations between Pakistan and the US. While numerous security pacts between the two countries are evidence of good times, the opposite can be seen in how Pakistan repeatedly became part of the US sanctions. To encourage any positive sentiment the two countries need to revive positive comprehensive dialogue. Restoration of mutual trust is the essential requirement of the day. The US needs to stop looking at Pakistan through the Afghanistan prism, he said.
In his concluding remarks, Chairman KCFR, Mr. Ikram Sehgal, thanked Ambassador Munter and other participants. He said the world is changing for the better for Pakistan. Pakistan does not need to pick and choose its friends and needs to be more global when choosing its policies.