Par­al­lel Uni­verses

Southasia - - BOOKS & REVIEWS - Re­viewed by Neha An­sari

Book Ti­tle: Mag­nif­i­cent Delu­sions: Pak­istan, the United States, and an Epic His­tory of Mis­un­der­stand­ing Au­thor: Hu­sain Haqqani Pub­lisher: PublicAf­fairs Pages: 432, Hard­cover Price: Rs.799 ISBN-13: 978-1610393171

If any­one has heard for­mer Am­bas­sador Hu­sain Haqqani speak, or held dis­cus­sions with him on Pak­istani pol­i­tics, they would be fa­mil­iar with his or­a­tory skills, his dra­matic tone and pauses as well as his sense of hu­mor.

In his lat­est book, Mag­nif­i­cent Delu­sions: Pak­istan, the United States, and an Epic His­tory of Mis­un­der­stand­ing, the same voice whisks the reader through the 65-odd years of con­tem­po­rary his­tory, as the au­thor re­counts his ex­pe­ri­ences as a stu­dent, jour­nal­ist, po­lit­i­cal leader and am­bas­sador.

How­ever, he clarifies that the book is not a per­sonal mem­oir. It is a his­tor­i­cal ac­count of the re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and the United States, a low­down of the in­sti­tu­tional power play that de­ter­mines the part­ner­ship (or the lack thereof), and it is a collection of pi­quant anec­dotes.

In its open­ing pages, Haqqani suc­cinctly pre­sents the the­sis of his book: “The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and Pak­istan is a tale of ex­ag­ger­ated ex­pec­ta­tions, bro­ken prom­ises, and dis­as­trous mis­un­der­stand­ings.” There is a myr­iad of ex­pec­ta­tions and pro­por­tion­ately a mul­ti­tude of com­plex­i­ties and is­sues, all masked un­der the la­bel of ‘al­lies’ and ‘strate­gic part­ners’, which he bril­liantly en­cap­su­lates in the over 380-page book.

Mag­nif­i­cent Delu­sions be­gins with the par­ti­tion of In­dia and nar­rates how the fledg­ling state of Pak­istan had noth­ing to sup­port its ad­min­is­tra­tive, eco­nomic and, more im­por­tantly, mil­i­tary in­sti­tu­tions that it had in­her­ited from Bri­tish In­dia. This gives in­sight into the back­drop against which U.S.-Pak­istan re­la­tions be­gan and on what terms, with what kind of ex­pec­ta­tions. Soon af­ter its birth, Pak­istan ‘chose’ the United States in the bipo­lar world of the Cold War. “Hav­ing taken a po­si­tion in Amer­ica’s fa­vor, Pak­istan ex­pected the United States to un­der­stand its eco­nomic and mil­i­tary needs and to of­fer gen­er­ous fi­nan­cial sup­port,” Haqqani writes. “Also in early Septem­ber Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ghu­lam Muham­mad met with Charge d’af­faires Charles Lewis to dis­cuss the dol­lars and cents as­pect of po­ten­tial US as­sis­tance,” he adds.

Ac­cord­ing to Haqqani, the re­la­tion be­tween the two coun­tries be­gan with greed from Pak­istan’s side, while for the Amer­i­cans it was all about pro­tect­ing its in­ter­ests vis.-à-vis. the Soviet Union. But an im­por­tant caveat was that “Pak­istani of­fi­cials’ ex­pec­ta­tions were clearly dis­pro­por­tion­ate to U.S. diplo­mats’ as­sess­ments of Pak­istan’s value”. Pak­istan’s early re­quests for aid “took the United States aback some­what”, par­tic­u­larly as “Wash­ing­ton did not share Karachi’s view of Pak­istan’s cen­tral­ity to U.S. strat­egy” and it “saw no ur­gency to em­brace Pak­istan”.

He later ex­plains: “For its part, the United States has also chased a mi­rage when it has as­sumed that, over time, its as­sis­tance to Pak­istan would en­gen­der a sense of se­cu­rity among Pak­ista­nis, thereby leading to a change in Pak­istan’s pri­or­i­ties and ob­jec­tives.”

This drives home the point Haqqani tries to make i.e. the foun­da­tion of the re­la­tion was pre­car­i­ous and not based on the con­cept of mu­tual ben­e­fit.

And, over the years, nei­ther coun­try has changed its core poli­cies nor have they given up the hope that the other will change. “Amer­i­cans won­dered how Pak­istan could be an Amer­i­can ally with­out a shared in­ter­est,” he writes, cit­ing the crit­i­cism of jour­nal­ists and pol­i­cy­mak­ers.

Sim­i­lar to his pre­vi­ous work, Haqqani again fo­cuses on the civilmil­i­tary (im)bal­ance in Pak­istan. In Mag­nif­i­cent Delu­sions, he uses that same civ-mil prism to ex­plain the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries.

But he also makes the reader re­al­ize the im­por­tance of per­son­al­i­ties – dom­i­nated by mil­i­tary men in Pak­istan and the pro-mil­i­tary anti-com­mu­nists in the U.S. – in the his­tor­i­cal im­broglio of re­la­tions. He men­tions how the U.S. of­fi­cially started help­ing Pak­istan mil­i­tar­ily un­der the Mu­tual De­fense Agree­ment, but it was John Fos­ter Dulles who drove the cam­paign to arm Pak­istan.

In the same way, he ex­plains how “the Amer­i­cans were bas­ing their pol­icy to­wards Pak­istan on their im­pres­sions of the people that ran the coun­try in­stead of an­a­lyz­ing their

poli­cies”. Dur­ing his brief­ing to the State Depart­ment, the then Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ad­mi­ral Arthur Rad­ford spent con­sid­er­able time on his views of var­i­ous in­di­vid­u­als in Pak­istan. He saw Gen­eral Iskan­dar Mirza as “the num­ber two strong man,” but in his opin­ion “the best man was Gen­eral Ayub [Khan].” The min­utes of the meet­ing re­flect the U.S. ob­ses­sion with per­son­al­i­ties at the ex­pense of try­ing to un­der­stand the Pak­istani lead­ers’ view of Pak­istan’s na­tional in­ter­est, Haqqani con­tex­tu­al­izes.

Sim­i­larly, years later, when the U.S. was in­volved in an ex­panded war in Viet­nam, the then U.S. Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son ex­pressed the “great­est of con­fi­dence in Ayub”. There­fore, Haqqani does not only blame Pak­istan for squir­rel­ing aid and arms in ex­change for mil­i­tary bases, but he also crit­i­cizes the United States for in­vest­ing in mil­i­tary men rather than demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, since the very be­gin­ning. And even in re­cent times, as he ex­plains in his later chap­ters, the two coun­tries were in “par­al­lel uni­verses”.

Over­all, chap­ter 5 of the book is the best read. Ti­tled “A Most Su­perb

and Pa­tri­otic Liar”, the chap­ter re­veals closed-door meet­ings be­tween the United States and the Zia regime. It is in­ter­est­ing to note the ‘great re­la­tions’ the United States had with Zia, whose pro­tégés to­day term the for­mer as the bane of the coun­try’s ex­is­tence.

The chap­ter opens with the Zia be­ing vis­ited by Gen­eral Ver­non Wal­ters, a spe­cial en­voy rep­re­sent­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan, where Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor gives “his word of honor as a sol­dier” to the vis­it­ing gen­eral that the coun­try “would not de­velop, much less ex­plode, a nu­clear weapon or ex­plo­sive de­vice”. This was ob­vi­ously not the case, which is why Wal­ter had com­mented, “Ei­ther he re­ally does not know or he is the most su­perb and pa­tri­otic liar I have ever met.”

These anec­do­tal snip­pets are re­ally the strength of the book.

Along with a his­tor­i­cal ac­count of U.S.-Pak­istan re­la­tions and nar­rat­ing the per­sis­tent tilt to­wards the mil­i­tary, Haqqani also in­dulges in a bit of soul-search­ing, as he tries to ex­pose Pak­istan’s iden­tity cri­sis. He does not delve too much into this, but he writes: “In­stead of bas­ing in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions on facts, Pak­ista­nis have be­come ac­cus­tomed to see­ing the world through the prism of an Is­lamo-na­tion­al­ist ide­ol­ogy. Even well-trav­elled, eru­dite and ar­tic­u­late Pak­istani of­fi­cials echo this ide­ol­ogy with­out re­al­iz­ing that hold­ing tight to these self-de­feat­ing ideas makes lit­tle im­pact on the rest of the world;

Haqqani does not only blame Pak­istan for squir­rel­ing aid and arms in ex­change for mil­i­tary bases, but he also crit­i­cizes the United States for in­vest­ing in mil­i­tary men rather than demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, since the very be­gin­ning.

the gap is widen­ing be­tween how Pak­ista­nis and the rest of the world view Pak­istan.”

The book is a must read, es­pe­cially for the “eru­dite, ar­tic­u­late Pak­istani of­fi­cials” Haqqani speaks of and also for those in pol­icy re­search as it not only high­lights the pol­icy faux pas of both Pak­istan and the United States, but also em­pha­sizes how “the re­la­tion­ship needs re­def­i­ni­tion, based on a recog­ni­tion of di­ver­gent in­ter­ests and an ac­knowl­edge­ment of mu­tual mis­trust”.

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