Ambassador Karamat Visits
the San Francisco Bay Area
By Ras H. Siddiqui
L to R: Ambassador Jehangir Karamat,
Douglas Bereuter and Neil Joeck
San Francisco: Pakistan’s
Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Jehangir Karamat
made a whirlwind tour of Northern California recently during
which he addressed gatherings at University of California
Berkeley, the World Affairs Council in San Francisco and at
Stanford. This reporter caught up with him in both Berkeley
and San Francisco and was able to listen to his views on “The
Future of US-Pakistan Relations.” He was accompanied
by Consul General Noor Muhammad Jadmani and First Secretary
Mumtaz Baloch during the trip.
Both introductions of Ambassador Karamat, by Professor Neil
Joeck in Berkeley and Mr. Douglas Bereuter (President of the
Asia Foundation) in San Francisco, incorporated his distinguished
career as a soldier-diplomat and as a scholar. Ambassador
Karamat retired as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief
of Army Staff of Pakistan in 1998. He has also been a Visiting
Fellow at CISAC, Stanford University and Washington DC’s
Brookings Institute. He is a graduate of well-known defense
institutions, including the US Army Command and General Staff
College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and holds a Masters Degree
in International Relations.
Ambassador Karamat thanked the hosts for inviting him to speak.
He said that there are two different perceptions to the US-Pakistan
relationship. One is that the US is going to leave after the
War on Terror is over (like in the past after the Soviet withdrawal
from Afghanistan). The other perception is that the relationship
between the two countries is for the long-term. “We
think that it is a strategic relationship,” he said.
He spoke of the convergence of interests between the US and
Pakistan and the upcoming strategic dialog that is to begin
between the two countries on April 26. He said that this is
going to be a high-level structured dialog and that comprehensive
discussions would take place from the bilateral, regional
and global perspective.
group of Pakistanis greet the Ambassador in Berkeley
Karamat with Ras Siddiqui
The Ambassador continued with
the other dialog that has also been initiated and is taking
place between Pakistan and the United States which focuses
on Pakistan’s current and future energy needs. He added
that Pakistan’s energy requirements 10 to 15 years from
now will be reviewed and hoped that its needs will be addressed.
He said that Pakistan was focusing a great deal on economic
and trade issues with the United States. “We have been
pushing the economic side. We were looking at a free trade
agreement between the US and Pakistan. This has not happened
yet,” he said, but the dialog has been moving forward.
He spoke of “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones”
in economically depressed areas of Pakistan especially along
the Pakistan-Afghan border area which could be provided badly
needed tariff relief for their goods. He went on to add that
there are several other initiatives (between the US and Pakistan)
underway in the social sector, specifically in the areas of
health, education and governance. He said economic improvement
takes away terrorist recruits.
On last October’s devastating earthquake in Pakistan,
he expressed how grateful Pakistanis were for America’s
help. “The US came in very strongly in the rescue, relief
and post-earthquake phase,” he said. (Let us add here
that the Pakistani-American community fully echoes the Ambassador’s
words of thanks to the Bush Administration towards this relief
Ambassador Karamat also touched upon the current Afghanistan-Pakistan-US
tripartite efforts in the War on Terror. He mentioned strides
made in information gathering and sharing. “We can take
immediate action on intelligence now,” he said. He added
that one of the areas on the Pak-Afghan border, Waziristan,
has been identified as a problem area where aliens have sought
refuge, and that the area has become a focus of Pak military
action. He said that the task to eliminate the source of the
trouble is not easy due to the nature of the problem, even
though the ball game has changed in the past two years. “You
have to understand the dynamics of the situation in Afghanistan,”
he said. He spoke of the North-South divide in that country
and the drugs and weapons mafia’s operating there which
is a big problem for Pakistan. He also spoke on some of the
blowback in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province where three
tribes were resisting progressive change.
On the defense and security aspects of the US-Pakistan relationship,
the Ambassador said that the next meeting was scheduled for
May 1. He added that Pakistan would be presenting its current
defense requirements at that meeting which will include the
purchase of the F-16 aircraft.
On the all-important topic of India-Pakistan relations, Ambassador
Karamat was cautiously optimistic. “The dialog is now
more or less institutionalized,” he said. He said that
the US was not directly involved in the talks but is playing
the role of a facilitator. On the recent India-US nuclear
deal he said that Pakistan had on its part indicated its concerns
to the US. He added that there was a “trust deficit”
between Washington and Islamabad on the nuclear issue due
to the unfortunate A.Q. Khan proliferation episode but that
Pakistan has taken various steps to ensure that situation
cannot be repeated.
The Ambassador had a great deal to say on Pakistan’s
economic progress since 1999, when a comprehensive reform
program was implemented and is continuing. He said that Pakistan’s
economic progress was recently covered in Newsweek and in
the Wall Street Journal on this very day. He spoke of increased
investor confidence, a successful privatization effort, developments
of new ports on the coast and the 8.4% growth rate last year,
making Pakistan a model for economic reform. He added that
the prospect of overland transit trade from Central Asia through
Pakistan offered exciting prospects.
In the problem areas identified by the Ambassador, he said
that the “democracy issue” was one, but that Pakistan
was on the path to sustainable democracy and that the current
elected government would be the first to complete its full
tenure in recent times. He said that women were being promoted
in politics and that there was a hectic discussion on the
gender rights issues going on in Pakistan. “The Military
is putting its organizational and structural strength behind
democracy in Pakistan,” he said.
He admitted that religious and sectarian strife had created
an internal security problem helped by the blowback from Afghanistan
and Kashmir and the global War on Terror.
But he added that there is a very active and strong political
opposition to the government in the country and that the media
was very active and free to express itself. “The media
is REALLY free,” he said, breaking into a smile.
The Ambassador also shared some insights into how Pakistan
viewed the current world situation. He stressed that social
issues need to be addressed rather than military solutions.
“We have seen that there are limits to even overwhelming
military power,” he said.
On Pakistan’s own foreign policy, Ambassador Karamat
said that it has a relationship with Iran, its own policy
on Iraq and has opened up a dialog with Israel, a dialog which
will go further when the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
He said that Pakistan also wants a stable Afghanistan and
good relationship with India. On Kashmir he said that for
the first time there is initiative on both sides to look for
In conclusion, we in the Pakistani-American community will
soon bid farewell to Ambassador Jehangir Karamat as he is
slated to leave his post in Washington in the next couple
of months. He will be remembered as a humble, articulate and
soft-spoken figure, a well read soldier and a credit to the
military profession. He once chose to uphold democracy in
Pakistan in spite of being in a situation where he could have
And as he prepares to leave Washington, the only question
to ask now is what will be his next assignment?