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  • The current U.S. engagement with Pakistan may be focused on the war on terrorism, but it is not confined to it. It also addresses several other issues of concern to the United States: national and global security, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, economic and strategic opportunities in South Asia, democracy, and anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.
  • The current U.S. engagement with Pakistan offers certain lessons for U.S. policymakers. These are related to the risks involved in basing policy on principles without having a strategy, isolating a country that has the capacity to harm, and nation-building in a country ambivalent or resistant to the United States' embrace.
  • The United States must help Pakistan pursue a path that meets its people's democratic aspirations and socioeconomic needs and is resilient enough to accommodate ethnolinguistic, regional, religious, and sectarian differences. Only such a course can help Pakistan become a stable and responsible member of the international community, at peace with itself and with its neighbors.
  • Sanctions toward Pakistan should not be a policy option. However, the United States should put some pressure on Pakistan to keep the country's reform effort on track and to induce it to act as a responsible nuclear power. For this purpose, the United States should not allow Pakistan to feel that the United States needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs the United States.
  • An assured and secure Pakistan is more likely to define its future in economic terms, wage peace with India, and be a natural ally of the United States. Therefore, Pakistan's peace process with India must be supported by the United States. The benefits to Pakistan must counterbalance the effects of a renunciation of Kashmir and the attendant loss of national honor this will cause.
  • Anti-Americanism exists in Pakistan but it can be toned down if the United States reaches out to liberal forces, the business community, and the female population. The United States should also reach out to the younger generation in Pakistan, which may resent U.S. power but not its ideals. Indeed, youth in Pakistan support a U.S.- backed normalization of relations with India, the fight against religious extremism, and educational and institutional reforms.
  • U.S.-Pakistan relations will stand or fall based on whether they benefit the Pakistani nation. And in their success or failure lies the future of Islamic extremism in the country.

About the Report

While the war on terrorism may have provided the rationale for the latest U.S. engagement with Pakistan, the present relationship between the United States and Pakistan is at the crossroads of many other issues, such as Pakistan's own reform efforts, America's evolving strategic relationship with South Asia, democracy in the Muslim world, and the dual problems of religious extremism and nuclear proliferation. As a result, the two countries have a complex relationship that presents a unique challenge to their respective policymaking communities.

This report examines the history and present state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, addresses the key challenges the two countries face, and concludes with specific policy recommendations for ensuring the relationship meets the needs of both the United States and Pakistan. It was written by Touqir Hussain, a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and a former senior diplomat from Pakistan, who served as ambassador to Japan, Spain, and Brazil.

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect views of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policy positions.

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