Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said he is hopeful for improved relations between his country and the United States.
By B.L. Wilson
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said he is hopeful that U.S.-Pakistani relations will get better despite recent charges by President Donald Trump that Pakistan provides safe haven to terrorists.
“We were singled out, humiliated and threatened,” he said referring to suggestions from Mr. Trump that billions of U.S. development assistance depend on actions taken against militants in the region.
The main challenge to Pakistan’s relations with the United States is the ongoing war in Afghanistan that started 16 years ago and the rivalry between Pakistan and India.
“For Pakistan, for 70 years the relationship [with the United States] has been very, very intense. It has seen its ups and downs,” Mr. Chaudhry said. “Throughout the 2000s we were up. In 2010 we came down. What a roller coaster.”
He added, “I think in 2020 things should be going up,” prompting laughter from an audience of George Washington University faculty, students, diplomats and media in the City View Room.
At a lecture cohosted by GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs and GW Law, Elliott School Vice Dean Edward “Skip” Gnehm, the Kuwait professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Public Affairs, said it was an opportunity “to prepare our students to go forth and become leaders in what is truly a global world.”
GW Law Dean Blake Morant introduced the ambassador “as an individual who has not only given of himself to his country but also to the world.”
Before addressing the issue of U.S.-Pakistan relations, Mr. Chaudhry reviewed the dramatic changes in world order since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s: the rise of transnational terrorism, the North Korean nuclear threat, the economic and security pressures from migration, growing protectionist tendencies along with a rise in “narrow nationalism.”
“So it is a world in flux. It is a world in disarray,” he said. “That is a challenge, but that is also an opportunity to shape it in the manner in which we want to. In an uncertain world, Pakistan is in an unstable region,” he said as he explained why it is not in Pakistan’s interest to harbor militants who fight in Afghanistan.
When the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1988 after a long war, many of the Afghan jihadists they fought stayed behind. Many of them fled into the mountainous areas on the border with Pakistan when the United States invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He said that Pakistan, as a member of the coalition fighting the Taliban, was often the target of more than 100 terrorist attacks each month between 2004 and 2014.
Before coming to the United States as ambassador, Mr. Chaudhry was Pakistan’s foreign secretary when his government reached a consensus that “terrorism under any name and any pretext is not acceptable.”
“Today that entire territory is under the control of the state of Pakistan, and the terrorists have no place to hide,” he said, noting that terrorist attacks inside his country number about five a month.
Controlling the terrorists has had a salutary effect on the country’s economy, he said, attracting investments from China mainly, but also Europe and more recently American corporate interests. The country also has been relatively politically stable after enduring years of military coups and dictatorships.
It is therefore in the interest of both Pakistan and the United States to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan, he said. However, the U.S. government continues to insist that Pakistan is sheltering the people that U.S. soldiers are fighting even as it receives billions of dollars in aid from the United States.
“We are trying to tell the Americans that this is not so, especially in the last couple of years,” the ambassador said. “We would like to see Afghanistan stabilized as much as the United States, if not more.”
During a question and answer session moderated by Sarah Freuden, the director of the international affairs program and associate professor at GW Law, Mr. Chaudhry said he saw continuity in U.S. policy with the previous Obama administration and change. Under Mr. Trump, he said, it is becoming more conditional, and competition with India as a strategic partner of the United States has sharpened.