Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, asserted his country’s commitment to counterterrorism and touched on Pakistan’s tumultuous relations with India in the Marvin Center on Friday as part of a roundtable discussion organized by the GW Homeland Security Policy Institute.
The roughly 150 guests ranged from government officials with the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to members of international and national media like the New York Times and Voice of America.
“I couldn’t think of a more timely roundtable than today,” said Frank Cilluffo, director of HSPI. “And I couldn’t think of a more qualified ambassador.”
Cilluffo served as moderator of the discussion with Yonah Alexander, senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and director of its International Center for Terrorism Studies.
Haqqani said many in his country feel threatened and insecure. With India as a “much larger eastern neighbor,” Pakistan “needed to build up security at expense to society.”
Pakistan is working toward making the combat of terrorism its first priority, the ambassador said.
“Terrorism and extremism are threats to the stability of Pakistan. Terrorism is a problem Pakistan must deal with,” Haqqani said.
The government is hoping to change attitudes that Pakistanis hold toward the Taliban, Haqqani said.
“This is the first time [the Taliban] are being described as what they are, as militants and terrorists,” Haqqani said. “There is absolute clarity that [terrorist groups] are not to be tolerated. What happened in Mumbai was wrong and our heart goes to our Indian neighbors.”
Haqqani urged the Obama administration to change course from prior U.S. diplomatic tactics and to enact “socioeconomic support that doesn’t end up within the Beltway.”
Louise Shelly, a professor at George Mason University, asked the ambassador where he saw the role of local police as opposed to the military in fighting terrorists.
“Pakistan’s law enforcement needs a revamp, and it is notoriously understaffed and underfunded,” Haqqani said, adding that law enforcement requires funding, better training and equipment to be effective.
Another guest asked Haqqani about the tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
“I am paid to be a diplomat, and I need to use my skills to answer this one,” said Haqqani, drawing laughter from the crowd. “Pakistan and India will find solutions to their problems because they need each other.”
Haqqani was open to answer questions on the Taliban and terrorism, but he hesitated when discussing matters of its nuclear arsenal.