A former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who now lives in exile in the West told Newsmax TV on Wednesday that trust between the two countries will always be strained as long as the U.S. remains an ally of Pakistan's greatest adversary: India.
"The big question for Pakistan always has been its relationship with India," Husain Haqqani, a South and Central Asia scholar with the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.
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"India is not America's enemy," said Haqqani, "and therefore the United States policies can never fully converge with Pakistan, which is totally focused on India and its rivalry with it."
Haqqani, ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 to 2011, acknowledged that the U.S. view of Pakistan focuses on the country's links to radical Islamists and terror groups that despise the West. Pakistan, a Taliban stronghold, was the last hiding place of fugitive 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
"I have no doubt that there are many factions in Pakistan that are very anti-American and cooperate with groups like ISIS and al-Qaida," he said. "Whether the [Pakistani] government actually builds them up and supports them to do that is still something that we all worry about."
Whatever the truth, "the fact remains that the Pakistani government does tolerate a lot of jihadi groups for its regional influence and, unfortunately, many of them have very close ties with groups that are against the United States
But he argued that Islamabad's tolerance of jihadists is ultimately rooted in antipathy toward its neighbor.
India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, have gone to war four times — three of those conflicts over the disputed territories of Kashmir, including military clashes in 1999. According to Haqqani, Pakistan finds Muslim jihadis useful for destabilizing Hindu-dominated India.
Haqqani's estrangement from his homeland reflects another strain of Pakistani intrigue: conflict between civilian leaders and the military. Haqqani resigned as ambassador in 2011 after being accused of secretly enlisting U.S. help to stop a military coup.
But forging closer U.S.-Pakistan ties doesn't mean a U.S. repudiation of India; the goal instead is to persuade Islamabad — a recipient of billions of U.S. foreign aid dollars — to change course and end the enmity with New Delhi, said Haqqani.
"You should make sure that Pakistan tries to get away from its perennial rivalry with India, that it pays attention to its own economy, and its leaders stop pursuing a destructive path," he said. "If that necessitates American to be a little tougher with Pakistan, that may actually be in the interests of Pakistan."
Haqqani, a former journalist and author of 2013's "Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding," said that his is "a very complicated country, and there will be no simple answers to dealing with Pakistan."