Pakistani Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani criticized America’s inconsistent friendship with its South-Asian ally in front of a crowd of about 200 people Tuesday night at the Elliott School of International Affairs.
He said the relationship between Pakistan and the United States has been tarnished because of the war in Iraq.
“The war is not going well on many fronts, and some Pakistanis feel that they are being treated as a fall-guy,” he said.
Durrani said Pakistan is frequently treated as a “forgotten ally” and that U.S. policies foster resentment by only turning to Pakistan when its services are needed.
“If the international war against terror is a team, then Pakistan is the country with the most touchdowns to its credit,” said Durrani, whose comments were open and blunt through out the night.
He also said he was disturbed by comments from presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former senator John Edwards suggesting they might take unauthorized, unilateral military action against targets in Pakistan if elected to the presidency.
Durrani called such comments “regrettable, . alarming and counter-productive.” He said statements like these “make it very difficult to pursue a close relationship” between Pakistan and the United States, and bred resentment in Pakistani domestic politics.
These types of comments, Durrani said, could lead to the end of Pakistani cooperation with the United States in the War on Terror.
“Those presidential candidates probably are just not aware of the level of cooperation” between American and Pakistan forces, he said.
Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs and current director of the Elliot School’s masters program, introduced Durrani.
Inderfurth said this is the third year the Elliott School has held the ambassadors forum. Members of the diplomatic community are “always willing to talk to students starting their careers” in international affairs, he said.
In a question and answer sessions, Saad Hamid, a first year Pakistani MBA student, asked Durrani about Pakistan’s own upcoming presidential elections, which are scheduled to be held Oct. 15. Hamid asked about the political role Durrani expected the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s largest intelligence agency, to play in the upcoming elections.
Durrani said while the current political situation was “tricky” and “charged,” he “hopes the role of the military subsides and democracy will grow.”
Hamid said he was very impressed by the Ambassadors answers. “I thought it would just be a formal speech, and that he would not touch these sensitive issues, but he was open and frank in talking to students and having a real discussion.”
“He really exceeded expectations” with his openness, Hamid said. “Coming from Pakistan, I know what sort of things government officials can go through.”
The event was attended by a contingent of students from the International Affairs Society as part of the group’s Welcome-Back-Week activities, as well as students from Delta Phi Epsilon, the Foreign Service fraternity.
Max Calfo, a freshman International Affairs major, said such events were part of the reason he decided to attend George Washington, “I noticed that they had (Hamid) Karzai and (Pervez) Musharraf last year when making my decision.”