New Delhi: Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, told an Indian audience that an aggressive Indian posture and human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir feed the extremist narrative in Pakistan and Indians neither encourage centrifugal forces or nor express the desire for the collapse of the Pakistani state.
Speaking on occasion of the release of his new book ‘Reimagining Pakistan,’ Haqqani, currently a scholar the Washington-based Hudson Institute, said that the international community has a stake in Pakistan’s emergence as a federal, democratic, tolerant, and inclusive state at peace with itself and with its neighbors.
“I tell Pakistanis that they need a national purpose other than animosity towards India, but I also tell Indians that they must accept that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed reality, which will always be their neighbour and a negative Indian attitude towards Pakistan is not a recipe for South Asia’s development,” he said.
Haqqani spoke at an event at the Nehru Memorial Library in the Indian Capital that was attended by Delhi’s intellectual elite and many retired civil servants and students.
The former ambassador and author shared highlights of his new book and said the process of ‘Reimagining Pakistan’ requires focusing on the real threats -of inadequate economic performance, low human capital development, poor health and education statistics, and rising extremism.
He said that South Asia was the least integrated region in the world, with less than 5 percent of its trade taking place between neighbours as opposed to 25 percent of ASEAN countries and 50 percent for North America and Europe. “Normal relations between Indian and Pakistan can change that,” Haqqani argued.
Haqqani cited statistics showing that Pakistan has the world’s sixth largest population and army but lags in most international rankings that measure a nation’s success, including education, economic productivity, and opportunities for citizens.
“It is not a good thing that according to UNDP, a greater percentage of students finishing high school in Nepal attends University than in Pakistan,” he observed.
Haqqani predicted that unless Pakistan drastically alters course, hyper-nationalism, xenophobia, and religious extremism will continue to sap its people’s strength and undermine its growth potential.
He called for more robust and open debate among Pakistanis about various options and choices available to the nation instead of limiting discussion to a narrow definition of patriotism and nationalism.
Published in Daily Times, April 12th 2018.