Interview on PTV's Politics Today
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
PTV: Good evening. Welcome to Politics Today.
Today, our viewers, we are going to have a very special interview with Ambassador James Dobbins who is the U.S. President’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is currently visiting Pakistan, and we are going to ask him about his visit and we are going to talk about the Afghan democracy, the future of Afghanistan, the drawdown and other things.
Thank you very much, Ambassador, for being part of the program.
Ambassador Dobbins: My pleasure.
PTV: First of all, how did your visit go?
Ambassador Dobbins: It went excellently. I was very well received. I saw everybody I wanted to and I found there was a good deal of interest in what’s transpiring in Afghanistan and I think also a degree of optimism.
PTV: And this time you are not going to Afghanistan, you just visited Pakistan.
Ambassador Dobbins: This time just Pakistan.
PTV: Because of the elections there or --
Ambassador Dobbins: In part. I think it’s better to not even give the impression that somehow we’re playing a role in the elections. It’s an Afghan process run by the Afghans for the Afghans and they’re doing an excellent job.
PTV: How optimistic are you about Afghanistan’s future after these elections? Because it wasn’t [inaudible]?
Ambassador Dobbins: I’m more optimistic. I think Election Day was a big day for Afghanistan. It’s clear that while the Afghans voted for a number of candidates they also voted against the Taliban. And many of them made clear they were voting against the Taliban.
The Election Day had a big turnout. There were serious security challenges, but the Afghan Security Forces were capable of responding to those challenges and it’s a start. The elections aren’t over yet but it’s pretty clear that there will be a second round, and it’s pretty clear that the Afghan people believe that this election is important to their future.
PTV: The [inaudible] interaction with Pakistani leaders. Again, your visit comes at a time when there’s a lot of speculation about a lot of issues regarding civil/military relationship in Pakistan. Was it also about the future of Pakistani democracy or was it merely about Afghanistan or Pakistan-U.S. relations?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think it was largely about Afghanistan and about U.S.-Pakistani relationship. The U.S. has strong positive relations both with the Pakistani military and with the Pakistani democratic civilian leadership and we strongly support the collaboration between them and our collaboration with the full spectrum of Pakistani authorities.
PTV: Regarding cross-border terrorism, did that also come into discussion?
Ambassador Dobbins: There was a good deal of discussion about the security situation. I was briefed by the Interior Minister and by the Prime Minister and by the Commander of the Army about the ongoing discussions with the TTP. My feeling is that the government is serious about trying to negotiate peace, but they’re also serious that in the end there needs to be peace and stability and that these challenges to the state need to be met, ideally through the peace process, but if necessary more forcefully.
PTV: What is your take or the American take on the peace process of this dialogue with TTP?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think we support the Pakistani government, we support its efforts to address this problem. We recognize that this is the first step. I think there was an agreement that both Pakistan and the United States need to cooperate in order to reduce and then eliminate violent extremism in and around Pakistan.
PTV: Since we’re talking about the cross-border terrorism, one big concern Pakistan has, of course we have been talking about the Afghan Taliban being present on our side, but we have seen another phenomenon. That is Pakistan’s terrorist activity, wanted terrorists hiding in Afghanistan and attacking Pakistan from there.
Is that an area where the U.S. can also help both countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think the problem with cross-border militancy is a mutual problem. It is a problem for Pakistan. It’s a problem for Pakistan’s neighbors. There clearly is infiltration across the border. Not just the border with Pakistan, also the border with India. And it does go both ways.
I think historically there has been more infiltration from Pakistan into Afghanistan than the reverse, but we accept it as a mutual problem that the two governments, Pakistan and Afghanistan, need to cooperate on and the United States is prepared to help both.
PTV: Regarding this cooperation, one big thing. Since you have been in the region since 2001, you have seen it all, since the Bonn Conference you have seen it all. When we [deal] with cross-border terrorism the biggest problem is the border. The Afghan side even doesn’t acknowledge it as a border. How do you harden the border if such things keep on happening? Can there be some work on that as well?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think one has to make a distinction between recognition of the border as a permanent frontier between the two countries. That’s a process that may take some time. And the management of it as a practical line separating two jurisdictions. I think it’s important that both countries as a minimum address the practical issues involved in the movement of people and goods across this line, and I think Afghanistan should be prepared to sit down and work with Pakistan to arrange a more orderly and a more regulated and a more peaceful regime along this line, even as larger legal issues are perhaps postponed until sometime in the future.
PTV: The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, do you think they are at this moment quite stable? Before the elections we have seen President Karzai blaming Pakistan for a lot of things, and there was this discomfort. Even on Election Day there was shelling from Afghanistan side. That injured some locals as well. Do you think that this relationship is going to improve?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think it has improved. I think Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made significant gestures, reaching out to President Karzai, inviting President Karzai to visit, then reciprocating by himself visiting Kabul. I think that contributed to an improvement. But you’re right, there continues to be irritations. President Karzai has been critical of Pakistan. He’s been equally critical of the United States, to be fair.
I think both of the likely candidates for the presidency in Afghanistan, and it looks probable that those will be Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, although we’re still awaiting final results. I don’t want to prejudice those. I think both of them will look for a close relationship with the United States and I think both of them will also look to an improved relationship with Pakistan.
PTV: Regarding the future government of Afghanistan, the matter of Bilateral Security Agreement, that has been there for quite a bit. How confident are you that it is going to be signed by either of the successful candidates?
Ambassador Dobbins: We’re disappointed that it hasn’t been signed already. It was completed last November. It was approved in December by a Loya Jirga, a grand council of over 3,000 representatives who gave it overwhelming approval. In the recent election campaign all of the candidates endorsed it and all of the leading candidates have made clear that they intend to sign it shortly after assuming office. So I think we are quite confident that it is likely to be concluded.
PTV: But would that mean that zero option is no option?
Ambassador Dobbins: The zero option isn’t an option for us. It’s an option for Afghanistan. If they don’t want us, we won’t stay. We’re certainly not going to force ourselves. However, we are encouraged that the Afghan people, the Afghan political class, and the Afghan presidential candidates have all endorsed a continued American and a continued international role. And as President Obama has said, if they make clear that they want us to stay and continue to help them, we’re prepared to do so.
PTV: We might be talking about a few hypotheticals, but it is very important that we talk about we explore the zero option as well. Earlier, something like one and a half years ago, there was an interview in which you appeared and that was a very interesting distinction. You said that the Kabul government in the past didn’t fall when the Soviets withdrew from the country. It actually fell when the [Gadhafi] [inaudible]. Do you think that something of that sort can happen in the zero option?
Ambassador Dobbins: I frankly don’t think the zero option is very likely and I don’t think it’s particularly useful to speculate about something that’s not very likely to happen. I think the elections have demonstrated that the Afghan Armed Forces and the Afghan political system is more resilient than most people had anticipated. I think the international community is going to remain committed, will remain present at much lower levels. I think it’s the likely outcome. And I think the prospects for continued development for Afghanistan are quite good.
PTV: In one of your books actually you wrote about three things that has a regional solution to Afghanistan. The first of course included the U.S. and Pakistan; the second one, India and other countries; and final, the third one, Turkey and other ISAF forces. Do you still think that model is relevant now in solving Afghanistan’s problems?
Ambassador Dobbins: Of course the inner [link] has to be the Afghans, the Taliban and the Afghan government. So far that’s the element that’s been missing. Clearly Pakistan, the United States, the other regional powers -- Iran, India, Russia, China -- are all supportive of a process of reconciliation, are all prepared to help advance the process. What’s been missing to date is that the Taliban has not been willing to sit down with the Afghan government. We thought last June that there was an opportunity, but it ultimately foundered. We’re hopeful that in the aftermath of the elections and in the aftermath of the reduction in the Western presence and as the Taliban see that there is still a strong, widely recognized, broadly respected government in Kabul with an effective armed forces that are continuing to receive international support, at that point they’ll have to reevaluate their position and decide whether or not they’re prepared to sit down and talk. As long as they are, I think the United States, Pakistan, other regional powers and the broader international community will all be prepared to be helpful.
PTV: What kind of cooperation is the U.S. expecting from Pakistan during the time of drawdown and in this year 2014?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think Pakistan will continue to be an important variable, if you will, in terms of Afghan stability. We support Pakistan’s effort to establish the rule of law in Pakistan, to eliminate violent extremism. Not just the violent extremists who attack Pakistan, but the violent extremists who --
PTV: That --
Ambassador Dobbins: -- Pakistani territory and attack neighboring societies. We believe that the Nawaz government and the Pakistani Army are also committed to moving to reduce and eventually eliminate this kind of violent extremism and we think that will be very positive in terms of Afghanistan’s future development.
PTV: That is the only cooperation you’re talking about, other cooperation as well. But we have heard a lot about Pakistan’s possible clout with the Afghan Taliban to convince them to sit on the [inaudible] table.
Ambassador Dobbins: I think Pakistan has already been helpful in that regard. I think they have been trying to insert their influence in that regard. We appreciate that. We’ve worked closely. We think that Pakistan and the United States have the same objective and the same strategy for dealing with reconciliation.
If the Taliban does begin to alter its view, if it begins to recognize the necessity of sitting down with the Afghan government and working out a peace process, then we do think that Pakistan can play an influential role.
PTV: Recently there was speculation about when the U.S. and the other forces leave the region, they leave behind the left-over military hardware. What exactly is going to be done with that? Do you think it has to be reprocessed, it has to be given to the regional powers? Or it would be just sold off?
Ambassador Dobbins: I don’t think it will be sold. Most of it, of course, will be shipped back to the United States. Some of it may be sent elsewhere. I think Pakistan will receive some surplus American equipment but not from Afghanistan, from other sources.
PTV: Other sources. You can identify any of those sources?
Ambassador Dobbins: Other places in the world where the U.S. has excess equipment. It’s not limited to Afghanistan.
PTV: Let us talk about national building. You have this tremendous work that you have done in a lot of countries, from Bosnia to the African countries. Do you think that the U.S. experience of nation building in Afghanistan has been a success more or less?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think it’s been a success in almost every regard except one, which is an important one, and there while I think there’s been progress it can’t yet be called a success. So particularly in the economic and social areas, Afghanistan has made remarkable progress.
Afghanistan has been growing economically at a rate that is the same as China’s over the last decade. So Afghanistan’s gross national product has increased by over 400 percent since 2001.
Longevity in Afghanistan is up by 20 years. This is a larger increase in longevity than any country in the world has ever experienced.
You now have nearly 10 million children in school. That’s nearly one-third of the entire country. Literacy in Afghanistan has doubled. Twice as many people can read and write today as could 12 years ago. If those children stay in school, twice as many again will be able to read and write in ten years.
The UN Development Program looked at every country in the world and measured progress in economic development, in social development and I health and in education, and said that of every country in the world, Afghanistan has made more progress in the last ten years than any other country in the world.
Now it’s still the poorest country in Asia, so it’s made great progress from a very low base.
PTV: One area where it has not?
Ambassador Dobbins: The one area in which it can’t yet be called a success is peace. Afghanistan is not peaceful. Of course the United States efforts have been not only to make a prosperous and a more democratic Afghanistan but also a peaceful Afghanistan and we’re going to have to continue to work on that.
PTV: Ambassador, when you talk about the GDP growth, that is very encouraging. But there is this fear that if the Western funds are cut off, they’re not provided, the government will actually collapse. Do you think the economics that we have seen is sustainable already on its own or there needs to be a support from outside?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think the answer is there is a continued need for external support as long as Afghanistan remains in conflict. Therefore as long as Afghanistan needs a security establishment that is as big as it is. In 2012 Afghanistan was actually more successful than Pakistan in terms of the amount of revenue as a proportion of GDP. They actually had more success in levying and gaining tax increases than Pakistan did. So they were making significant progress toward becoming self-sustaining, but they can’t afford the security establishment they currently have, and they won’t be able to as long as this conflict continues, which is why it’s important for Pakistan and the United States and Afghanistan to cooperate so that that particular source of expense can be reduced. But as long as the conflict goes on they will be dependent and the United States and other nations of the international community will need to continue to contribute.
PTV: One big problem of this region that we have seen, the surge in poppy cultivation. That has been a big concern in how they’re managed. Do you think that there is a plan to actually [inaudible]?
Ambassador Dobbins: The experience in dealing with poppy cultivation is closely linked to advances in development. There have been other areas, Turkey for instance, much of Southeast Asia, where there were major sources of exported narcotics. And it was only as they developed economically and alternative sources of livelihood became more attractive that these problems were ultimately resolved. So while there are short term efforts to try to control the drug trade in Afghanistan, ultimately it’s economic development which will solve the problem.
PTV: Let us talk about the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. After 2014 do you see the same kind of cooperation continuing between the two countries?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think in many ways it will become even more important. We’ll have a smaller American military presence in Afghanistan, but I think we’ll still have an American military presence and that presence will of course continue to be vulnerable to attacks by the Haqqani network, by the Afghan Taliban. So Pakistan’s cooperation in ensuring that these groups don’t have the freedom to operate against American facilities and against Afghanistan will become even more important than they were earlier.
I think the United States will still have a strong interest in denying Afghanistan, Pakistan, other areas in the region as forces of international terrorism, as safe havens for al-Qaida and for other groups that intend to and try to attack the United States.
PTV: Does that mean that even after 2014 the main, the key ingredient between the two countries is still going to be Afghanistan? Is it going to be the sole --
Ambassador Dobbins: As I said, the key common interest of both Pakistan and the United States and the region is to eliminate violent extremism in and around Pakistan.
PTV: But going back to Pakistan and U.S. history since 1950s, there might be a lot of denial between the two countries that they keep on saying that there is an excellent relationship but it is perceived as [foundational]. Precious few countries have done that much for Pakistan as the U.S. has, and few countries have done, or sacrificed a lot for the U.S. as well. So there is this strong relationship or bond between the two countries that everyone keeps denying. Do you think that apart from Afghanistan the relationship is going to be as close and comfortable?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think the relationship has improved a lot from the difficult times in 2012. I see a positive trajectory. Certainly I was very warmly received in all the meetings that I’ve had. We had an excellent visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Washington in November. We then had excellent visits by Sartaj Aziz and a large delegation. Then more recently by Finance Minister Dar and also a large delegation. The Strategic Dialogue between the two countries has intensified and I think there will be continued progress in this regard. I think the prospects for U.S.-Pakistan relations are actually quite good.
PTV: And this year we saw something very interesting, and that was that one million dollars was taken away, symbolically of course, from the aid that is given to Pakistan. It was allocated to Ukraine and other parts. Do you think it is symbolic and indicative of the kind of relationship, the shift of emphasis that is going to take place?
Ambassador Dobbins: There are a lot of challenges around the world, but I think there’s enduring recognition that this part of the world has challenges that the United States needs to help meet. As you’ve said, we have a long historical relationship with Pakistan. One that I think the populations in both Pakistan and the United States don’t fully understand or appreciate. I think we’re going to have to continue to argue with our Congress in order to make sure that we continue to receive support for the relationship with Pakistan and we’ll need Pakistani help in making that case.
PTV: Regarding Pakistan’s relations with other countries that the U.S. also has, the [inaudible] during the [inaudible] summit, Pakistan actually called for U.S. support in resolving Kashmir dispute. Do you think there is a chance that the U.S. might be able to offer its good offices for that?
Ambassador Dobbins: As I think you probably know, India has consistently rejected any third party mediation and argued that this is an issue that needs to be negotiated directly and without the participation of any third party. So they’ve rejected mediation.
I think as long as they reject mediation, there is only a limited amount that the United States or any other party can do. We certainly in our dialogue with Pakistan and with India encourage improved relations, encourage improved trade relations, encourage improved dialogue on strategy and military issues, and we certainly encourage dialogue and negotiation on the territorial issues that separate the two countries. I think as long as India rejects any actual medication there’s not much we can do in that regard specifically.
PTV: But are you hopeful about the relationship between the two countries? That has been more or less a [nuclear] flashpoint for quite some time.
Ambassador Dobbins: That’s one of the reasons, of course, why we think an improved relationship is important. It’s also important for both countries for economic reasons. Pakistan in particular would profit enormously from becoming a real crossroads. It’s perhaps -- This region of the world is the least economically integrated of any region in the world. The countries of South and Central Asia trade less with each other than any other region in the world. That’s unhealthy for all of the countries. Pakistan most notably. So increased economic integration in this region is something that we’re promoting. We’re promoting it from Central Asia. We also encourage more trade between Pakistan and India.
India will have a new government soon. It will be a new opportunity. Pakistan now has a government that still has a long life in it with a clear political mandate. I think two governments with clear political mandates and a long future in each case offer an opportunity for both governments to take some of the risks and the political costs that are always inherent in any real opportunity to overcome differences. The United States will certainly use its influence to encourage both sides to take those risks.
PTV: Regarding the cause of terrorism or extremism in the region, one reason is India-Pakistan relationship also, because a lot of non-state actors have been actually justifying such actions or their existence on the basis of that. Is there any understanding on the Indian part as well that if there is cooperation this might also help the [big problem]?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think India certainly is concerned about cross-border militancy and terrorist attacks that have been conducted in India which they believe had their origin on Pakistani territory. I think as is the case with Afghanistan, this is something that’s in everybody’s interest. I think all of the states of the region need to avoid employing militancy as an instrument of policy. That this has been a long-term strategy which has created a cancer in societies and particularly in Pakistani society which is now threatening of the actual existence of the state and of its democratic institutions. So it’s in the interest not just of Pakistan, but of Pakistan and all of its neighbors to move away from that approach to diplomacy and to geopolitical strategy, and to avoid employing these kinds of instruments and, as I’ve said, move toward the elimination of violent extremism in Pakistan and around Pakistan and all of the neighboring societies.
PTV: One big complaint that comes across when one talks to the Pakistani authorities, and I’m sure you must have come across that as well, is the wariness that even though the U.S. is such a close ally, whenever we talk about regional problems, the U.S. emphasizes that Pakistan should be doing more. That wariness has been there. Do you think that other countries of the region also need to do more to make the relationship better?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think we certainly agree that these kinds of issues are only going to get addressed in a collaborative way by all of the countries of the region by improving confidence. I think Pakistan has an important role to play. I’m of course not responsible for India, but for Afghanistan. Afghanistan certainly has an important role to play. I think the fact that you’ll have a new government in Afghanistan shortly means that the current relationship which has improved but not improved enough since the arrival of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, there’s an opportunity for significant further improvement. And I agree that the problems of militancy and cross-border violent extremism are mutual problems that have to be addressed by states on each side of the border.
PTV: One thing that has been discussed a lot in the recent past, that is Syria. I’ll tell you why I’m bringing up Syria. One, it relates to Pakistan also. Secondly, I saw one of your testimonies actually sometime back in which you supported the U.S. support of these dissidents in Syria. In Pakistan it has been speculated that Pakistan might have to actually support the same dissidents, the same opposition. Do you think that Pakistan should be engaging with them?
Ambassador Dobbins: Syria is beyond my current --
PTV: But Pakistan is.
Ambassador Dobbins: Pakistan is. I think the United States would certainly welcome Pakistani willingness to work with us in support of a peace process in Syria and in support of Syria moving toward a genuine, open democratic process.
PTV: What happened recently in Syria actually might have given a new meaning to how the [world] is progressing. There might now be this impression that the world might now be re-polarizing and there might be a new world order in which actually we are returning to the Cold War era. Academically, do you think we are returning to that kind of past?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think it’s always a mistake to look at events over a relatively short term and draw long term conclusions about those kinds of trends. I think that the difficulties in Syria, the difficulties in Crimea and with respect to the Ukraine certainly indicate that we live in a somewhat unsettled world, a world where international order, the respect for the United Nations and for a peaceful settlement of disputes is not yet uniformly adopted and uniformly practiced. On the other hand I think that these are relatively isolated instances and that by and large the world remains a reasonably orderly reasonably peaceful place.
I think if you compare the situation now to the situation in the first half of the 20th Century or even the second half of the 20th Century, you’ll find many fewer conflicts and many less serious conflicts. Pakistan has had many more serious conflicts in its past than it has now. Afghanistan has gone through much more difficult times than it’s going through at present. East Asia has been at peace now for nearly 50 years without any serious conflict. Europe as a whole, with the exception of the current problems in Crimea, has been at peace for decades. Latin America hasn’t had a war for 70 or 80 years. So I think it’s probably a mistake to take a couple of admittedly serious but isolated examples and say we’re moving toward a new, more conflictual era.
PTV: What at this moment is this element of unease? And that can be translated into anything, that doesn’t bother anyone at this moment.
Ambassador Dobbins: I think the problems for instance in the Ukraine need to be taken seriously. There are certain standards that have been set that have largely been met in the post-Cold War era. Some of those standards are being breached. We don’t want that to become an example that other countries follow. We need to make clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. At the same time we shouldn’t exaggerate that this is a new pattern which is going to become the new norm. It isn’t normal and it won’t become normal.
PTV: Coming back to Pakistan, we were talking about nation building in Afghanistan. Of course Pakistan is a young nation. Compared to Afghanistan we are trivial. How do you see nation building in Pakistan?
Ambassador Dobbins: Nation building in Pakistan of course is an entirely indigenous process. It’s something that Pakistan needs to engage in. It’s something that the United States, the international community are prepared to provide economic assistance and the United States has a very large assistance program in Afghanistan. It also works with the World Bank and the IMF in support of Pakistan’s development priorities. But this is an area that Pakistan needs to work on and clearly Pakistan has a way to go in terms of achieving the levels of growth that other countries have achieved and that Pakistan could achieve and that would give the Pakistan population a much better standard of living.
PTV: Speaking of bilateral relationship, President Obama has visited more or less all the countries in the region. Pakistan is one country where he might have spent some time in the past when he was not President, but he has never actually come here. And we keep on hearing that he might. Do you have any idea why is he not coming here?
Ambassador Dobbins: I don’t have any knowledge of his future schedule.
PTV: I’m talking about the past, not the future.
Ambassador Dobbins: No, I don’t. I’m sorry.
PTV: And do you think he should be coming to Pakistan?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think he’s probably like to come to Pakistan, but I don’t know that he has any specific plans.
PTV: And no idea why he hasn’t been able to actually come?
Ambassador Dobbins: I --
PTV: You don’t want to comment on that?
Ambassador Dobbins: No. I operate in a small part of the world. The President’s schedule is not something that I have much of a role in setting.
PTV: But you are focused on Pakistan and Pakistan is one place that needs that kind of attention perhaps.
But do you think that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship are going to have that kind of empathy? In the Bush administration, when you were earlier working in Afghanistan, there was a lot of connection between the two countries, Pakistan and the U.S.. Do you see that kind of bond returning between the two countries at all?
Ambassador Dobbins: I don’t think there’s a distinction between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. I think that the relationship with Pakistan had grown steadily beginning with 2001, really up to about 2010 or 2011, then there was a series of incident of which you’re familiar, of the Abbottabad raid, the border incidents, the Davis affair. These things set the relationship back. There was a period during which the relationship was quite difficult.
I think that’s largely over now. I think we’re back on track. I see a reasonably positive prospect for that relationship in the future. So I think there was definitely an interruption, but it wasn’t one that coincided with the Obama administration, it was the result of a series of incidents which really created irritations which I hope are now largely overcome.
PTV: Actually I brought up the issue of the President visiting Pakistan and then this partisan issue of the Bush administration vis-à-vis the Obama administration because in the past there has been a lot of emphasis on civilian to civilian relationship and democracy building in Pakistan. But we have seen that when the Republicans are there and when we have military relationship in Pakistan, perhaps that is the best time when we have good relations. That kind of bond, that kind of connection.
Ambassador Dobbins: I think that would be an unfortunate conclusion to draw. Clearly if you look at the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation which opened a new area for very substantial aid flows to Pakistan, it really was an initiative in the Obama administration. It has resulted in very expanded American support for Pakistan. And it was explicitly linked to the renewal and then the consolidation of democracy in Pakistan. The United States has made a major investment in the return of democracy in Pakistan, the consolidation of democracy in Pakistan, and we’re strongly supportive of its continued strength and consolidation.
PTV: When you talk about U.S. support of democratization process, a democratic process in Pakistan, of course it has been there. It has been one of the key reasons that might have developed democracy to this level. That empathy could have won a lot of hearts because there is this complaint that there might be misunderstanding on the part of the people on both sides. Don’t you think that needs to be worked on?
Ambassador Dobbins: I certainly agree that the populations on both sides need to have a better understanding of the importance of the relationship, and of the ties that already exist.
PTV: And when you look forward to something like ten years later, where do you want to see Pakistan-U.S. relationship?
Ambassador Dobbins: Well, I think where we’d like to see not just the Pakistan-U.S. relationship but the region is a more open region, a region in which India and Pakistan are not only at peace but are major trading partners. Where Afghanistan is now a crossroads for trade between Asia and South Asia. Where we have a more normal relationship with Iran once the nuclear and the other issues in our relationship are resolved. And in which the American relationship with Pakistan is not a relationship with a beleaguered country surrounded by adversaries, but with a country that’s not only at peace with all of its neighbors, but in a very positive relationship. So we support economic integration in this region; we support improved relations among the nations of the region. We’re looking forward to a region in which violent extremism doesn’t find a home. And in that kind of relationship I think the bilateral relationship will continue to be important to both countries.
PTV: I’m told that we are left with a few minutes so I’m going to make best use of it.
One thing that has, one expectation is that Pakistan should be getting some kind of parity with India and we should be [entering] the civilian nuclear deal. Is there any chance at all of that kind of development?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think that might be a very long range objective but I think there are a number of steps that will need to be developed. We’re in a dialogue with Pakistan on issues of non-proliferation and nuclear safety and those kinds of issues. That dialogue has deepened in recent years, but I think there’s still a long way to go.
PTV: But Pakistan’s nuclear credentials were lauded at the [inaudible] Nuclear Security Summit, and that was substantial.
Coming back to one last important thing, and that is on drones. We have seen recently that there haven’t been that many drone attacks. Do you think that this is a sign of deepening cooperation and understanding between the two countries? Or is it just a strategy?
Ambassador Dobbins: I don’t think this is an issue where I’m going to expand on what President Obama has said publicly and what Secretary Kerry said when he visited Pakistan late last year, where clearly we’re looking for a close, collaborative relationship with Pakistan in the area of counter-terrorism and as we move toward that we hope these other irritants will be eliminated.
Finally, earlier I talked about the cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan regarding cross-border terrorism. Do you think that the Afghan government can also be convinced that the kind of extremist attacks that we have witnessed from Afghanistan should be stopped?
Ambassador Dobbins: I think it can, yes.
PTV: And the U.S. can be helpful in that?
Ambassador Dobbins: Yes.
PTV: Right, Ambassador Dobbins. Thank you very much for talking to us.
Ambassador Dobbins: Thank you.
PTV: You have listened to the Ambassador. One very important thing is that the cooperation is going to be there between the U.S. and Pakistan in the coming years also. And of course, emphasis is going to be on the relationship between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the regional partners as well. We are going to keep bringing more information on these developments, but for today, this is all. Thank you very much for watching us. Take care.