Former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter has called for a broad-based change in American policy towards Pakistan, saying that the future policy should be based on mutual respect and economic cooperation.
Munter delivered his frank assessments while addressing a session on American foreign policy at the fourth Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) at the Beach Luxury Hotel on Saturday. The session, chaired by Ambassador Jahangir Ashraf Qazi, witnessed a heated debate on the current challenges that diplomatic relations between Pakistan and US faced.
Questioning and criticising the role of established narratives and strong stereotypes on both sides, Munter pressed on the need of looking at new avenues to amend relations between the two countries.
Talking about narratives, he said that the common perception of victimisation in Pakistan suggested that the US left the country on its own once its foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan were achieved.
“The common narrative is that this is what we are and we will do it to you again,” he said, reflecting on the opinions of those Pakistanis who he said did not want to see a strong relationship with the US.
He laid strong emphasis on moving away from established narratives and mindsets so that new avenues of cooperation could be explored in light of new knowledge and on the basis of mutual respect.
“We need to confront challenges with courage and confidence,” he said, while asserting that the relationship between the two countries be based on mutual respect and sharing of knowledge.
While noting that US policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan was flawed, Munter said that he understood that America’s bias towards India was of major concern to Pakistanis.
He called for a regional settlement for the Afghan conflict and called on US and Pakistani policymakers to play a positive role in ensuring that Pakistan too becomes an economic success story in Asia.
While explaining his emphasis on building people-to-people relations, he said that this would help boost business and economic activities in Pakistan and help clear many of the misconceptions that Americans and Pakistanis have about each other.
“When your qawwali artists visit the United States or when our actors and stage performers tour Pakistan, this helps create a positive atmosphere,” he said.
Munter’s views on building people-to-people relations were supported by Qazi, who said that by increasing such contact and supporting economic activity, the two countries could work together towards bringing progressive Pakistanis into the mainstream.
“Alternative narratives should come into the mainstream or else extremist perceptions will prevail,” Qazi said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2013.
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