Experts: Time for Recalibrating US Policy Toward South Asia



At today's New York launch of a new Asia Society report, The United States and South Asia After Afghanistan, panelists discussed the important role the United States can play in encouraging greater interconnectedness throughout South Asia, while stressing that the opportunity now exists to implement a long-term, integrated U.S. strategy for the region. Keynote remarks were delivered by Robert D. Hormats, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, who provided an overview of the Obama administration’s “New Silk Road” initiative.

Following Hormats' remarks, Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow and report author Alexander Evans was joined by Husain Haqqani, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Frank Wisner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and former U.S. Ambassador to India, and moderator Suzanne DiMaggio, Asia Society’s Vice President of Global Policy Programs. Evans explained that strategy toward the region has long been influenced by immediate crises. “In policy it’s very difficult to find time to step back and think in a longer-term manner about strategy and the challenges that one faces,” he said.

Ambassador Haqqani pointed out that a realistic approach to Pakistan is essential, noting that U.S.-Pakistan relations should be based on “an acceptance of ground realities.” He said that relations thus far have largely been limited to ties between the two countries’ governments, militaries, and intelligence agencies.

Ambassador Wisner emphasized that understanding India’s role in the region will be crucial to developing a long-term U.S. policy toward South Asia, but that the United States must be patient. “I think we are all wise enough now to recognize that India will set her own pace in the relationship with us and it will not move in the same direction nor at the same speed that we wish it to move,” he said.

Panelists agreed that, as the United States prepares for the 2014 military drawdown in Afghanistan, it will have to work to deepen its ties to South Asia while developing a regional policy that is both more cohesive and forward-looking.

Today’s event in New York followed a panel discussion and report launch in Washington, D.C. on December 11 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. There, Evans and Haqqani were joined by former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl Inderfurth and former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter for a discussion moderated by Wendy Chamberlin, president of Middle East Institute and a former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan.

The report's South Asia launch takes place on Dec. 20 in Delhi.

Watch the complete program in the video embedded above. Check back Thursday for highlights.

About the Author

Profile picture for user Johan Kharabi
Johan Kharabi is Senior Program Officer for Global Policy Programs at Asia Society.