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How Obama tried to barter with Pak using Kashmir

November 05, 2013 14:37 IST

United States President Barack Obama secretly offered Pakistan in 2009 that he would nudge India towards negotiations on Kashmir in lieu of it ending support to terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Taliban, but much to his disappointment Islamabad rejected the offer.

"Since the 1950s Pakistan had wanted an American role in South Asia. Now it was being offered one. In the end Pakistan would have to negotiate the Kashmir issue directly with India. But at least now the American president was saying that he would nudge the Indians toward those negotiations," Pakistan's former Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani writes in his book Magnificent Delusions, which hit the stores on Tuesday.

This is Haqqani's interpretation of the secret letter written by President Obama to the then President Asif Ali Zardari, which was personally hand delivered by his then National Security Advisor Gen (retd) James Jones.

The letter's content is for the first time being disclosed by Haqqani, the then Pakistan's envoy to the US.

In his book, spread over 300 pages, Haqqani writes that in November 2009, Jones travelled to Islamabad to hand deliver a letter written by Obama to Zardari.

Dated November 11, 2009, through the letter Obama offered Pakistan to become America's "long-term strategic" partner. The letter "even hinted at addressing Pakistan's oft-stated desire for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute," he writes. 

"Obama wrote that the United States would tell countries of the region that 'the old ways of doing business are no longer acceptable'. He acknowledged that some countries -- a reference to India -- had used 'unresolved disputes to leave open bilateral wounds for years or decades. They must find ways to come together'," Haqqani writes.

"But in an allusion to Pakistan, he (Obama) said, 'Some countries have turned to proxy groups to do their fighting instead of choosing a path of peace and security. The

tolerance or support of such proxies cannot continue'," the former diplomat writes quoting from the letter.

"I am committed to working with your government to ensure the security of the Pakistani state and to address threats to your security in a constructive way," the book says, citing Obama's letter to Zardari. 

"He (Obama) asked for cooperation in defeating Al Qaeda, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban and the assorted other militant groups that threaten security. Obama then wrote of his 'vision for South Asia', which involved 'new patterns of cooperation between and among India, Afghanistan and Pakistan to counter those who seek to create permanent tension and conflict on the subcontinent'," Haqqani wrote.

Haqqani, who now teaches at the University of Boston, said that in a meeting with him, Jones stressed that he had wanted to reassure Pakistanis that any perception that the US was leaving the region was simply wrong.

"Pakistan's success is to America's success in the region," Jones had said.

Jones said that if Pakistan was ready to make "a strategic commitment to common objectives," the United States was ready to be 'a partner for the twenty-first century'," Haqqani quoted James from that conversation as saying.

"The Obama administration had asked for 'fundamental readjustment' before the two countries could be 'partners for a long time to come'. But Islamabad was not ready for them. When Zardari's reply arrived, it had clearly been drafted by a committee of Foreign and ISI bureaucrats, repeating old cliches about Afghanistan threat to Pakistan from India," Haqqani writes.

"Kayani had given Jones his own more-than-fifty-page-long thesis on Pakistan's strategic threats and interests. I was allowed to read it in Islamabad, but no Pakistani civilian was provided a copy to keep. As I read it, it felt familiar; I wondered where I had read it before realised that its contents were remarkably similar to the paper President Ayub Khan had given to then President Eisenhower in 1959.

"Obviously Pakistan's permanent institutions of state, nothing had changed in half a century. Pakistan had missed the opening for defining its partnership with the world's sole superpower on more favourable terms than before," he wrote. 

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