Interview: Hussain Haqqani


What do you mean by “Magnificent Delusions?”

It is a book about the U. S. -Pakistan relationship, which many think is the most dysfunctional alliance in the world. My argument is that Pakistan and the U. S. always tried to change the fundamental interests of each other, instead of finding a convergence of interests. The delusion was that America was providing arms to Pakistan in the 1950s and 1960s to fight communism, whereas Pakistan wanted arms to fight India. Similarly, the Pakistani delusion was that the Americans would continue to support Islamabad without regard to the fact that Americans didn’t have a conflict with India.

The consequence of the delusion has been that Pakistan has become too dependent on the U.S. and the India-Pakistan dispute has continued for too long. I strongly feel there would not have been any 1965 war had there been no weapons to Pakistan from America. It also had the consequence of breeding extremist Islam in the region, which has become a problem for Pakistan, America and the whole region. That’s why I call it a “delusion”; and not only a single delusion, but multiple delusions involving all the people trying to build relations not on fundamental principles of international relations, namely shared interests, but only on a series of transactions that are not fully upheld by all parties.

So you say that relations with the world’s biggest democracy have not been beneficial for your country. Rather, by your reasoning, those relations have stood in the way of Pakistan’s emergence as a mature nation state.

Absolutely, as a Pakistani my biggest concern is Pakistan. I am worried about the fact that in 1947 what is today India had a literacy rate of 18 percent and what is Pakistan today had a literacy rate of 16 percent — a difference of just 2 percent. Today, the difference is about 20 percent. Today, India has a literacy rate of 75 percent but Pakistan has a rate of only 55 percent. Pakistan did not become a democracy. The military became too powerful and we are struggling to become a democracy. We became an ideological state instead of a functional state. Many of our key economic indicators are not the same as other states have. America gave only 15 billion dollars in aid to South Korea since 1949 whereas over the same period it has given 40 billion dollars to Pakistan. South Korea has become a developed country but Pakistan has not. My opinion is that if the U. S. was more realistic in its approach to Pakistan and if Pakistan was more honest in its dealings with Washington we would have become a much better place than we are.

How did America contribute to creating a dysfunctional state in Pakistan?

It is the nature of support that is important to understand. Pakistan did not need military support; it needed economic assistance, Pakistan needed infrastructure support . By building military wherewithal, hoping that Pakistan would be useful in its war against communism, Americans ended up fueling conflict on the subcontinent. They didn’t understand the region. I have a quote in the book by Chester Bowles, who served as America’s ambassador to India twice. He said that most Americans didn’t understand the forces at work on the subcontinent. So there was this thinking that if Pakistani leaders were saying that they want to fight communism then Americans were supporting them without questioning that. But the Pakistani leadership was not interested in fighting communism; they were thinking of regional conflict and were trying to assert control within Pakistan. So by not understanding what the Pakistan military wanted, what Pakistan needed and what the consequences of arming Pakistan would be for regional peace, the Americans contributed to creating a dysfunctional Pakistan.


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