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Prof. Cameron Munter, Former Ambassador to Pakistan, Briefs Media on U.S.-Pakistan Relations

Cameron Munter, professor of practice in international relations and former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (2010-12), shared his insights on U.S.-Pakistan relations with reporters, during a Council on Foreign Relations media briefing call last week. Following the Oct. 23 call, which came as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Washington, Munter was quoted in news stories in the U.S. and around the world.

Among his observations:

• “The Pakistanis are interested in furthering strategic dialogue [with the U.S.]…building up on high-level talks on issues that are of common interest to both countries, defining them very well, and going -- and not shying away from problems like security issues, like economic issues, that could separate us.”

• “The progress that has been made in an open dialogue between the military leadership and the civilian leadership is remarkable in that time. I think that what Nawaz Sharif and his teams, especially his interior minister and other leaders have really attempted to do, is to be very frank with the military in Pakistan about the common tasks that they have.”

• “I emphasize, the fact that it's widely said in public that the greatest threat is the militant threat is, in my opinion, a welcome change from the sense that many people had, that the greatest threat to Pakistan was understood in years past to be -- to be India. The fact that they're being realistic about this, both the military and the civilians, shows to me that the answer to your question is that those relations are in flux. The prime minister and his team do have, I think, more of a part of the discussion of national security policy, and the military, I think, is more open than it has been in the past. But there is a long way to go there. And they have to work on this.”

• My understanding of the approach that I think Mr. Nawaz Sharif was talking about -- that I think is a very constructive approach -- is to deal with a number of issues in the India-Pakistan relationship, up and including Kashmir. Everything is on the table, but not necessarily looking to try to make this as the -- the litmus test of the relationship.… What's laudable about the relationship is that, in fact, very quietly and very -- and very systematically -- the Indians and the Pakistanis have begun to talk about things such as trade, visa regimes, borders, those kinds of things, and it would be in my opinion very healthy for them not only to talk about things across the border, but to talk about other interests they have in common.”

• “I think that the whole point about coming to a -- a more mature discussion between our two countries about the fight against terrorism, acknowledging that this is the greatest threat to the stability of a country that's very important to the United States, is the healthy way in which we can build a better understanding, both in private and in public, about how you fight terrorism and what the tools are that you use in the best way to make that happen. When that's not done skillfully, yes, you run into civilian dissatisfaction and anger about the way things are being handled.”

Munter was also a guest on KPCC Radio’s Oct. 29 “Air Talk” program regarding the U.S. surveillance program of foreign leaders.

Related Links

Pomona College Program in International Relations

Counsel on Foreign Relations transcript on U.S.-Pakistan Foreign Relations, Oct. 23, 2013

Los Angeles Times, U.S.-Pakistan Relationship Has Nowhere to Go But Up, Analysts Say,” Oct. 22, 2013

New York Times, “Drone Issue Hovers More Than Ever, Even as Strikes Ebb,” Oct. 24

KPCC Radio, Air Talk, “Was President Obama in the loop on spying on foreign leaders?” Oct. 29

News Story: “Former Ambassador to Pakistan and Serbia, Joins Pomona Faculty,” Oct. 11, 2012