Exploring Pakistani, Indian and American Relations

Husain Haqqani and Strobe Talbott

MUMBAI, 10 January 2014 - The history of the Pakistani – American bilateral relationship reveals a chequered past characterised by misunderstanding. The relationship has imposed itself on the forefront of global affairs on numerous occasions, from their Cold War alliance to recent interactions over the U.S. war against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. Additionally, the constant tension between Pakistan and India has added another complicating dimension to the formulation and enactment of American foreign policy across the subcontinent.

To address this globally significant interconnected triangle of foreign relations between Pakistan, India and the U.S., the Asia Society India Centre hosted a private round table discussion as a part of its BASIC (Breakfast at Asia Society India Centre) series with Husain Haqqani and Strobe Talbott. Haqqani served as an adviser to four Pakistani Prime Ministers, including the late Benazir Bhutto, and as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States. He has remained passionately vocal on Pakistani affairs despite being held in prison and facing the risk of death. He recently authored the acclaimed book, Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. Talbott is the President of the Brookings Institution. He is an American foreign policy expert and served as Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration.

The participants engaged in a deeply informed discussion that helped to unpick the foreign policies of the three nations and the domestic dynamics that produce them. Their analysis was littered with personal anecdotes from years spent as leading practitioners in the field. The wide-ranging discussion generated candid commentary on a multitude of topics as participants took advantage of the off-the-record forum. They investigated the divergent development trends of India and Pakistan since the 1947 partition. Participants analysed the troubles facing the state of Pakistan: trapped by its military industrial complex, lagging behind other emergent economies and balancing opposing pressures from reform groups and jihadist influences. This conceptualisation fed into the conclusion of chronic misunderstanding defining the history of the Pakistani – American alliance that had dramatic geopolitical effect across the subcontinent. The discussion addressed recent developments including jihadist terrorism in Mumbai, war in Afghanistan and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It concluded with speculation and debate over the potential future developments in this sphere of international relations.

Reported by Thomas Pierce, Intern, Asia Society India Centre.

In partnership with: