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Musharraf urges Islamabad to engage with Trump to fix US-Pak relationship

The Trump administration is under pressure to get tough with Pakistan, and Musharraf’s presence in the US was part of an effort launched by Islamabad to intervene before “it was too late”.

world Updated: Apr 14, 2017 09:43 IST
Yashwant Raj
Musharraf was speaking at the launch of a new study on how Pakistan and the US could fix a relationship weighed down by mounting distrust.
Musharraf was speaking at the launch of a new study on how Pakistan and the US could fix a relationship weighed down by mounting distrust.(Reuters File)

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday said the Donald Trump administration was a good opportunity for his country’s government to engage with and address the ongoing dissonance between the two erstwhile allies.

Trump “starts with a clean slate”, Musharraf said at a Washington think-tank. “We need to engage with the new government and project our point of view and our interests in a better way”.

Musharraf was speaking at the launch of a new study on how Pakistan and the US could fix a relationship weighed down by mounting distrust and bitterness in recent years, titled Pakistan Today: a case for US-Pakistan relations.

The launch, followed by day-long discussions kicked off by Musharraf’s keynote address, comes at a time of heightened interest in Pakistan in light of the new administration’s review of ties that are said to be in an advanced stage.

President Trump said Wednesday he was dispatching national security adviser HR McMaster to Afghanistan “find out how we can make progress alongside our Afghan partners and Nato allies”. McMaster is scheduled to then go on to visit India and Pakistan.

There have a spate of discussions and think-tank events — that’s how Washington works itself up on issues or interest — on Pakistan lately, either by itself or in relation to Afghanistan.

“Suddenly Pakistan is flavour of the month in this town,” said a South Asia expert who did not wish to be identified. “I think much of it has to do with the fact that the Trump administration is in the advanced stages of its Af-Pak policy review.

“Think tanks are trying to shape the thinking of the administration by coming out with a variety of products.”

The new administration is also under pressure from those who want the US to get tough with Pakistan, arguing that it was the only option available to force Islamabad to give up its use of, and support for, terrorism as a policy tool.

Former Pakistan ambassador Husain Haqqani and South Asia expert Lisa Curtis, who has since joined Trump’s national security team, argued in a paper earlier this year that the new administration should keep open the option of declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.

Musharraf’s presence at the launch at The Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University was a part of the effort launched by Pakistan and its supporters here to intervene before, as an expert said, “it was too late”.

The new president had presented Pakistan with an opportunity, Musharraf argued. “He still needs to understand what really (are) the complexities of Pakistan-India relations … the complexities of Afghanistan, Taliban, al-Qaeda etc.”

“In that,” he added, “we can certainly try to manage or try to project our point of view in a better way to him because he would be more open to a new understanding of the dynamics. I see it very positively.”