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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs > Releases > Public Statements on South and Central Asian Policy > 2002

Interview By Syed Talat Hussain of Pakistan Television

Richard Haass, Director of Policy Planning
Islamabad, Pakistan
October 31, 2002

QUESTION: I'm your host Talat Hussain, and we are delighted to have with us this evening Ambassador Richard Haass, who is Director, Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State and currently visiting Pakistan. Ambassador Haass thank you very much for joining us for this program. Let me start by asking you straight away: what brings you here to this region?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: Pakistan's an important country. So is India. This is really one of my regular trips in my responsibility as an advisor to the Secretary of State, Mr. Powell.

QUESTION: And you've come from India. What are your impressions of your meetings there, as regards Pakistan's ties with India? Lots of statements have come out concerning that issue.

AMBASSADOR HAASS: I think there have actually been pieces of good news. I think the best news is obviously the announcement first by the Government of India, then by the Government of Pakistan to demobilize some of the forces currently on the border between the two countries. That's obviously a healthy development. On the other side, obviously, there are still big disagreements between the two countries, including, but not limited to, Kashmir. But that said, I do think this mutual announcement of redeployment of forces provides something of a breathing space, something of an opportunity.

I think also two other things, if I may go on a little bit at length. One is, in India, you've just had the elections in Jammu and Kashmir. There's a chance for something of a new beginning there to improve the quality of life and quality of governance there. And, obviously, I've just arrived here in Pakistan amidst tremendous interest and energy and activity in the aftermath of your elections, as you're now in the midst of trying to form a government. So, again, I think these political developments also open up some opportunities.

QUESTION: You're not equating the two elections by any chance, are you?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: Obviously, they are fundamentally different. One is a national election, one's a local election. I think each election, in its own way, represented some progress, some advance. But, again, they're obviously fundamentally different.

QUESTION: Let's stay on Kashmir for a moment longer than we would have otherwise. Tell us about the U.S. policy on Kashmir, because, sometimes we hear the U.S. say that it's a dispute between India and Pakistan. Sometimes we hear somebody say that it's a disputed territory. Sometimes we see Kashmir being defined as part of India. Where does this administration stand in terms of defining Kashmir in South Asia?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: I'm not sure it's all that useful for this, or any administration, to play the definitions game. Obviously, it's an important issue that affects the lives of the people who live there. It obviously is at the core of the differences between India and Pakistan. And, obviously, what we want to do is see this issue resolved diplomatically, peacefully. You've got a framework here now that's, roughly – what, thirty years old? – under Simla for India and Pakistan to try to work this out diplomatically. And, obviously, the interests and perspective of the people of Kashmir have to be taken into account. But the United States does not hold in its pocket any secret plan or framework for this solution. It really has to be worked out, again - India, Pakistan - involving them and also, again, the people of Kashmir.

QUESTION: The U.S. was backing the election process in Occupied Kashmir, obviously?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: The United States does think it's important to improve the quality of life for the people who live in Jammu and Kashmir – think it's very important. And I think it's interesting what happened. You obviously had a change in political leadership there. Since then, subsequently, you've had all sorts of negotiations and a so-called, I think, "co-dominium" program has emerged, which has some interesting innovations about political inclusion. So I think, again, this is one of the reasons that I will leave this area somewhat more optimistic than I came.

QUESTION: Reverting back to India-Pakistan tensions, because that's something that does take up some of U.S. policy planners' time, in terms of looking at the region. Demobilization, obviously, has pared down tensions a bit. The next step is going to be dialogue between the two countries, without which, obviously, things cannot move forward. What is your take on the Indian response to this repeated demand by the international community that they should sit across the negotiating table and talk issues out with Pakistan?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: Well dialogue is one way to move things forward, and I think the Indians are prepared to have dialogue that includes, but is not limited to, the issue of Kashmir. That said, the Indian government also wants the entire issue of cross-Line of Control infiltration resolved before hand. In my own view, I would like to see a dialogue take place even if those differences exist.

But let me suggest something else as well. Even if we're not yet ready, or India and Pakistan are not yet ready to talk at the highest level, I think it would be healthy for both countries to find other ways to begin to interact positively. In some of the ideas we've already seen out in public are everything from re-establishing diplomatic contacts; re-establishing direct air links, rail links, bus links, what have you; sporting competitions…

And also economic. The fact that you have these two neighbors – between them what, over 1.1 billion people, or so? You've got some trade now that seems to benefit Dubai as much as it benefits India and Pakistan. This is an absurd situation! The two biggest trading partners of the United States, not surprisingly, are what? Canada and Mexico. India and Pakistan ought to have a thriving trade.

So I'm very interested in seeing if you can't see the beginnings of a more normal relationship between these two countries – what I called in India the other day a "thickening" of interaction, of relations. Even if we can't resolve the big issues.

QUESTION: A thickening of the diplomatic ties that will remove the ticket of problem between two countries… From the east to west, let's talk about Afghanistan. What is that worries that U.S. in Afghanistan now?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: The optimist in me says we've come along ways in Afghanistan. I used to work on it on a daily basis. And, again, there is quite a lot of progress. It's now a several months after the Loya Jirga. We've got a government that's up and running. Some of the economic reconstruction funds are actually beginning to make a difference. Something like 2 million people have voted with their feet, as we like to say, and returned to Afghanistan.

On the other hand there are real problems, and I'm not going to sit here and not mention them. Drug production is clearly back up, which is a real problem. There are tensions, say, between the federal government in Kabul and the periphery – certain cities, certain warlords, as they're known. The economic process is taking a long time. Training an Afghan police force, training an Afghan army is also taking time.

So this is very much a work in progress, a work in process, and it's going to take time for Afghanistan to really get back on its feet. The good news, though, is, I think, the international community – including the United States, including Pakistan, including Japan, the European Union. The international community, I believe, is committed to seeing this through. People are not going leave Afghanistan alone. We are not going to make that mistake again.

QUESTION: Well, we still hear voices from Afghanistan, from Mr. Karzai's administration, calling desperately for the international aid to arrive in time. There has been inordinate delay already that has taken shape and that undermined some of the credibility of Mr. Karazai.

AMBASSADOR HAASS: There have been delays, not surprisingly, I think, in part, because when governments pledge, you've got to translate the pledge into money. Then you've got to translate the money into actual projects. Also, I think we have to remember that the some delays are due to the Afghans, themselves. It's hard to get a government up and running. In some ways it's hard to build what you would call the "receptive capacity," the absorptive capacity for the aid. It all takes time. But I think, again, we are making some progress. We just sent the senior U.S. official there for several months try to improve the coordination on the ground. I think we are getting there. I understand the frustrations, but progress is being made.

QUESTION: Do you think that Afghanistan will acquire the level of stability where it will not require the U.S. to constantly monitor the developments there?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: Well, that's certainly the goal. I think we're some ways away from that. Again, you've got internal differences. You don't yet have the internal security forces, police or army. There's still residual presence from the Taliban or from Al-Qaeda. There's other people in the country, like Gulbadin Hekmatyar who mean the government no good, whatsoever. So I think it is going to be a while before the Afghan government – I think we are talking still several years away – before it can stand on its own feet. And that is understandable.

QUESTION: Let's also talk about the larger construct of Pakistan ties with the U.S. Where do you think the two countries stand on the matrix of friendship? Some people are very reluctant to even use this term anymore.
AMBASSADOR HAASS: I'm surprised to hear that. I travel around the world a lot. My job has a global responsibility. I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that, out of all of our bilateral relationships, probably the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is the most changed for the better over the last year or two years. This change was already happening before September 11th. When we came into office, we were determined to improve the U.S.-Pakistani relationship – which, by the way, had begin to improve somewhat even under the previous administration, toward the end. It's quite remarkable how far we've come. Pakistan now is, I think, one of the top four recipients of U.S. assistance programs. You have a developing economic relationship, obviously, in the trade area. Our militaries are cooperating much more. We are partners in the war against terrorism. We cooperated very closely… - we were just taking about Afghanistan. So I think there has really been extraordinary progress.

And I think in the aftermath of your most recent elections and once you get a new government in place, the idea for our two governments, then, to have a closer working relationship also grows, as Pakistan becomes a more complete democracy, if you will. That's something that matters tremendously to the United States. Obviously, if you look around the world, our relationships with fellow democracies are the most intimate and the most productive relationships that we have. So as Pakistan continues to move down that road, I think that really bodes well for our bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: Are there any problem areas that particularly worry you, where issues can come up and generate friction?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: I think there are some. All bilateral relationships have them. One is, in a sense, I just alluded to. Pakistan is not yet a complete democracy. I think that's an issue. I think we also have to deal with problems of Pakistan's relationship with India, for example. And the United States has obviously had disagreements with the Government of Pakistan about issues like infiltration across the Line of Control, and that set of issues. And I believe that it would be obviously in the interests not simply of our bilateral relationship, but the interests of peace and stability in this region.

But, again, I'm impressed by the degree we've moved and how quickly it happened over the last two years.

QUESTION: Were you anticipating the kind of election results that the recent elections have thrown up?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: I don't claim to be an expert on your…

QUESTION: But you are watching Pakistan closely...

AMBASSADOR HAASS: (laughs) I think I was somewhat surprised – as was just about, I should say, everybody else, including most Pakistanis – when I saw predictions about which parties would get how many seats, and so forth. And coming here now I'm impressed by, I guess the word I'd use is active or robust… The speculation is intense. You pick up your newspaper and there are twenty articles in every newspaper on who is meeting with whom, and who may run this or that provincial government; who may be the next Prime Minister, and so forth. It's exciting. That actually surprises me more. It's not so much the election results, but it's the degree of interest, the degree of excitement I am encountering.

QUESTION: No particular worries about the outcome of the elections?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: No. Look, one of the things you have to understand is a democracy is when the people vote, the people vote. And what makes a democracy a democracy is that you can't control the results. Obviously certain parties, including the MMA alliance did better then a lot of people predicted. So be it. That's how the people speak.

And now you all have to work out who is going to be in your government. Who is going to lead your government, both at the national level as well as at local levels. You going to have to determine your policies. But I am confident we can work this out. I am confident that who ever ends up inside your government, whoever ends up as your Prime Minister and the rest is obviously going to promote policies that are good for Pakistan. And I think one of the things that is good for Pakistan is a good relationship with the United States.

QUESTION: Let's move from issues to themes here. One of the themes that does dominate all discussions, whether at the policy level in the States or here in Pakistan, or elsewhere in the World, or in homes as well, is the relationship of the U.S. with the Muslim World. A lot has been said about it and a lot has been written about it. Of course nobody agrees on one thing. Do you think the U.S. wants stability in the world, and its not going about the best way to promote that stability (indistinct) the Muslims across the world?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: We obviously want to have stability in the Muslim world. And I think it's a challenge to get it right. One of the things that we are asking ourselves, for example, is does the United States need to more, perhaps, to encourage political and economic openness; political and economic reforms – even democracy – in parts of the Muslim world where you haven't seen it? Yes, while there has been democracy in parts of the Muslim world, including Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and so forth – I hope I am not leaving out certain countries – in most of the Muslim world, particularly the Arab world, there is nothing. So I think one of the questions we have to ask ourselves is how can the United States and others better support the gradual opening up of these societies so individual men and women get a chance to participate more actively and more meaningfully in their country's future? So that is one of the questions we are asking ourselves very much.

QUESTION: What about Iraq? Because one of the main problems that we see in U.S. relations with the Muslim world seems to have come up after Afghanistan. That's Iraq. Of course you are getting fairly negative feed back from most of the Muslim countries, whether they say that in the public or not is beside the point. But at least the general sentiment is not exactly positive. Is there any way the U.S. is likely to reconsider its options on Iraq, considering the likely aftermath an attack on Iraq can come up?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: The United States will not reconsider its goals, but how we achieve those goals is obviously very much an open question. The goal is to bring about an Iraq which is in total compliance with its international obligations. This is a special country. It's not a Muslim issue; it's an issue of decency. It's an issue of war and peace. This is a country that has twice committed massive aggression: first against Iran, then against Kuwait — by the way, both Muslim countries. It twice used weapons of mass destruction – chemical weapons – against its own people, as well as against the Iranians. What the world has essentially said is the regime in Baghdad, the regime of Saddam Hussein, is so dangerous it can't be permitted some of the freedoms and choices that other governments are normally permitted. The problem, then, is that this regime has violated, literally more than a dozen UN Security Council resolutions. So what the United States – and, by the way just about everyone else – thinks is that Iraq needs to disarm in the area of weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow Saddam Hussein to have chemical, biological and, much less, nuclear weapons. We do not want to wake up one day to an Iraqi version of September 11th.

Now it's Mr. Saddam Hussein's choice as how it comes about. It's our preference this happen diplomatically, this happen voluntarily. That international inspectors, who he kicked out four years ago, that they be allowed to return, that they be allowed to do their job. If he will allow that to happen, fine. We will then have achieved the goal of Iraqi disarmament, and it will have been done diplomatically and peacefully. However, if he refuses to work with the international inspectors to allow them unconditional access, then I'm afraid we may well have the conflict that we would prefer to avoid. But one way or another, we are not going to have an Iraq that is sitting on weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Mr. Colin Powell has said, I think it was yesterday or the day before yesterday, that the U.S. is not going to wait forever for the world to move collectively on Iraq. That means that perhaps he was referring to some time frame that the U.S. may have in mind? Because "not waiting forever" obviously refers to a certain deadline.

AMBASSADOR HAASS: It's not so much a specific hour or day, but there is sense that we've given this, now, quite a lot of time. We've been negotiating in New York for over a month, I would estimate. There is a sense that people have had a chance to compromise. We've put forward some good faith compromises. We are trying to bring this to closure, be it this week or early next week. And I think we'll get there. The most recent reports I have from New York and Washington suggested that there is tremendous consensus that, first of all, Iraq is in violation of its international obligations, and this can't last. That you do need to send the international weapons inspectors back on a very robust basis. They really do to have the freedom to inspect and get the information they need. And there need to be consequences for Iraq if it doesn't comply with these obligations. I think there's consensus there. We are narrowing down the differences. It really is down to a few details. And while it's always dangerous to make the predictions – or as someone once said, "particularly when they're about the future" – my hunch is that we'll have a resolution by early next week.

QUESTION: One way or the other, Mr. Saddam Hussein is not getting away with it. That's the message that the U.S. is sending out. Why isn't the U.S. sending out the same message to Israel?
AMBASSADOR HAASS: The situations are obviously very different.

QUESTION: Also a nuclear power?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: Very different situations. Israel has been threatened by its neighbors for its entire existence. That said, the United States is using extraordinary diplomatic efforts to improve the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. You've had, for the first time, an American President – George Bush – stand up and say, "The United States is now committed to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on lands occupied since 1967." And we're not just talking about generalities. We want to bring this about now in less than three years – by the middle of 2005. We are also negotiating with, or consulting, rather, with our European friends, with the Arab leadership, with the Israelis, with the Russians and others, as well as the UN about a world map, a set of specific steps, to get us there from where we are now – to help us travel this distance over the next nearly three years. We're working with the Palestinians to get them to, obviously, stop all their acts of terrorism, but also to get them to undertake the economic and political reform which will be essential if any Israeli government is going to sit down and make the necessary compromises. So this is very high on our list of priorities.

But I would simply say, and I think you would agree with this, every situation is different. Every situation is specific. So the United States, quite rightly, has a different approach to the Palestinian problem than we have, say, to the Iraq problem, or the North Korean problem or the Kashmir challenge. Each one of these situations has its own unique history, its own unique dynamics, and we've got to tailor or shape our policy accordingly.

Q. There's another view, probably rooted in lack of information or lack of understanding, but the view is very strong and we hear that all the time. The view is that the U.S. is simply using Mr. Saddam Hussein as a bogie. U.S. actually wants to occupy the oil reserve of the area that will ensure oil supplies for the next 150 years. Your take on that? Is there any truth to that, or is it just one of those things that gets said?

AMBASSADOR HAASS: One of the entertaining things about traveling to certain parts of the world is you hear stories like this, which have absolutely no basis and truth what so ever! What we want is the world to have the necessary access to oil at a reasonable price, one that's fair for producers and fair for consumers alike. We don't want to have control – we never have – of the oil. Look, we liberated Kuwait. Did we seize control of Kuwait's oil reserves? Of course not. We liberated Kuwait, and now the Kuwaitis are once again enjoying the fruits of their own oil. We've had a close relationship with the Saudis and other oil producers over the years. Also, most of our oil doesn't even come from the Middle East. We've now diversified our supplies. So a lot of our oil comes from Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria and other countries. So no, the United States does not have any goals, which I think would be totally indefensible, like that. Again, what we want to have are normal trading relationships with the energy producers.

QUESTION: Let's ask you a futuristic question, and then we close the program. Tell us about Pakistan-U.S. ties – next milestone. What is the important event that is taking place? I want you to break some news on this program!

AMBASSADOR HAASS: (laughs) If I had to say where we going next, I would love to see an expansion of our economic relations. I think that these simply have not gone as far as they should. The good news, for example, is by 2005 you will have no more tariffs, no more limits on Pakistan's ability to export textiles to the United States. That's one thing. Secondly, just a closer relationship across the board. That's not news, and I apologize. I know you wanted me to say something sensational!

But really, what's interesting about foreign policy is often what's not sensational. And what we want is a relationship that begins to move away from some of the highs and lows that have characterized it over the years. We want something that's consistent. And, again, I think as Pakistan becomes a more complete democratic country, I think you will see an ever-closer relationship between us. And, obviously, I think to the extent the United States can help Pakistan and India work out their differences, that will also help. So all of these things have to come together.

But I think, in some ways, most dramatic events now are behind us. It's hard for me to imagine the relationship is going to change or improve as much over the next, say, fifteen months as it changed and improved over the past fifteen months. And I think that's probably a healthy statement.

QUESTION: Well, on that healthy statement we thank you Ambassador Richard Haass, Director, Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State for being with us on this program. And viewers that's all from Talat Hussain. Thank you very much for watching this program. Allah hafiz.

Released on October 31, 2002

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