The purpose of literature, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is to hold up a mirror to nature; to tell the truth in blatant terms without the sugar-coating of euphemisms.
Two veteran diplomats – a Pakistani and an American – shared the dais at the Jaipur Literary Festival on Saturday to speak about the murky world of international diplomacy and, more specifically, about the tumultuous US-Pakistan relations.
At a session titled ‘Magnificent Delusions’, moderated by former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran, diplomats Hussain Haqqani and Robert Blackwill said that the Pakistan-US relationship was a grand delusion, based on lies and expedience about terrorism, nuclear weapons and Afghanistan.
The session, on the second day of the festival, was held at the Diggi Palace.
Haqqani also said Pakistan’s future was in building a functional state and not an ideological state.
His latest book ‘Magnificent Delusions’ traces the turbulent relationship between the US and Pakistan.
While Haqqani, a strong critic of the military-religious nexus in Pakistan, said his country often lied to the US, former US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill said the US had taught Pakistan the lesson that it could lie without penalty.
Blackwill said the book by Haqqani was remarkable and deeply researched with archival material and had two major themes — over the decade the government of Pakistan lied systematically and comprehensibly to US about terrorism, nuclear weapons programmes; the other more striking thing was the Americans never digested it.
Citing the example of Malala Yousafzai, who stood up to the Taliban, Haqqani said he was cautiously optimistic about Pakistan even though the establishment had eliminated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Salan Taseer (governor of Punjab province) because they challenged the fanatics.
“Malala Yousafzai could give us a future. Hafiz Saeed (the wanted founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba) can only give us destruction,” he said adding that a nation of 180 million people could not allow extremists to lead the way.
On India-Pakistan relationship, Haqqani said the fundamentals had to be addressed.
“The fundamentals are that we are people who live on one sub-continent and have 5,000 years of shared history. We have to move beyond disputes. 95% of Pakistanis were born after Partition and don’t have any memory of that. Pakistan needs a functional state instead of an ideological state, it needs a government, jobs and education,” said Haqqani.
He felt that as far as the Afghan war was concerned, the US could have gone about it more smartly instead of sub-contracting the entire jihad to ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency) out of fear that no American should cross the border into Afghanistan and should be done from Pakistan territory.
On Pakistan and India-US relationship, Blackwill said, “Haqqani is optimistic about Pakistan's future, but I am cautiously pessimistic, looking at extremism in Pakistan. Though we have an unhappy history with India, in the long term it will be collaborative.”