A Conversation with Hussain Haqqani, Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US

Hussain Haqqani speaking at a PS21 discussion in London, March 5, 2015
Hussain Haqqani speaking at a PS21 discussion in London, March 5, 2015


On Thursday, March 5, 2015, PS21 executive director Peter Apps interviewed former Pakistani ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani.

Mr. Haqqani served as ambassador to Washington between 2008-2011. He is now a senior fellow and director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC.

A full transcript will be published shortly. A complete audio of the discussion is published below and on YouTube along with a shorter interview.

Here are some of the key takeaways and quotes:

Pakistan and the United States have long struggled to understand each other’s narratives and motivations, he said, leading frequently to mutual disappointment.

While Washington has long hoped Pakistan would become a reliable ally both in and outside the region in its fight with first communism then militant Islam, Pakistan has always been more focused on India.

While the US has wanted Pakistan to focus on defeating the Taliban and associated groups, elements of the Pakistani authorities have always seen the Pakistani Taliban and Pashtun elements in Pakistan as vital to stopping India getting a foothold in the country.

“I don’t think the US and Pakistan narratives are going to be resolved any time soon,” he said. “The Americans see Pakistan as a country that has not always followed its promises.”

The rise of China has further complicated the dynamic. Pakistan, he said, saw China as a potentially fruitful ally while Beijing also saw Pakistan as a way of tying down India.

The fact Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was able to find so long in Pakistan before his killing by US forces in 2011 had done lasting damage to the relationship, he said.

“The US likes to divide the world into people they can form and people they can take a there is always a Pakistani that they can take to lunch,” he said. “But the world is rather more complex than that. I don’t think the US has ever really understood the domestic constraints in Pakistan.”


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