International Affairs Forum:
How would you describe U.S. - Pakistan relations at the moment?
Ambassador Jamsheed Marker:
Very much as they have been over the last 50 years – they have their ups and downs and there have been disagreements from time to time. But it’s one that is important for both countries, and so we have to work any problems out.
Do you expect to see many changes in U.S. policy toward Pakistan with the incoming Barack Obama administration?
I expect things to change. I think the American focus is going to shift from Iraq to Afghanistan, or to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And so there is going to be a lot more attention paid. And I think having Bob Gates as defense secretary will ensure a certain amount of continuity. Things won’t have to be reinvented, and I think that’s a good sign. But otherwise, certainly it’s a difficult relationship and one that will have to be handled with great diplomacy.
Are there any specific steps you would like to see the incoming administration take?
Amb. Marker: Yes – two things. First, help with the financial crisis that Pakistan finds itself in. I see a lot of problems ahead. The IMF loan has come through, which is OK, but the imposition of conditionalities is going to cause a lot of social problems for the government. This is a very important problem. The IMF loan coming through is, I think, a kind of certificate of good conduct, and I hope the other countries will now come in with some financial help.
The second thing is, the presence of the Taliban has increased tremendously in Pakistan, and it has to be dealt with. The government obviously wants to deal with it, but one will have to put heads together to see the best way of doing this. Simply sending drones over, whatever success they achieve - and maybe they will succeed in getting one or two people - the collateral damage is much greater. Something has to be done about how to cope with that. I think it’s possible to do so, but we need a great deal of cooperation and understanding.
Pakistan recently elected a new president. How optimistic are you that Pakistan will see more political stability?
I’m afraid I’m not terribly sanguine about that. I think a certain amount of instability will continue. It’s happened before and I think it will happen again. I’m afraid there’s nothing to suggest instability will completely disappear.
You have served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations. An ongoing debate at the U.N. has been the possibility of reform of the Security Council. Do you agree this is something that needs to be done?
Yes, quite definitely. It was set up when the membership was much less, and so it is hopelessly Euro-centric. There is no representation, I’m talking about on the permanent membership, from Africa or Latin America, and from Asia it is just China. But having said that, it is awfully difficult to get people to agree on what needs to be done. There are all sorts of solutions, but I don’t see it happening tomorrow.
One country that is frequently described as a strong candidate for permanent membership of the Security Council is India, but Pakistan is traditionally seen as opposing this. Do you think India would be a good candidate?
India clearly has a great many qualifications for that. But there are also some disqualifications, particularly Kashmir, and something needs to be done about that. There’s a country that is standing in defiance of Security Council resolutions going back 60 years. That’s one. But there is also the competition from other countries – Japan, Indonesia from Asia, from Latin America. From Africa there are South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria. All of these have a claim. This is what makes me think it is going to take some time before this is sorted out.
Jamsheed Marker is diplomat in residence at Eckerd College and has served as Ambassador of Pakistan in ten different capitals with accreditation to nine additional countries since 1965. He has represented Pakistan in Ghana, Romania, the former U.S.S.R., Canada, the German Democratic Republic, Japan, the Federal German Republic, and France.
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