Pakistan-US relations to remain rocky: Cameron Munter

NEW YORK: The US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter predicted Monday that relations between the war partners will remain rocky but pledged greater effort to ensure that ordinary Pakistanis feel the fruits of US aid.In blunt remarks during a visit to New York, Ambassador Cameron Munter insisted that Pakistan has made progress in some areas — such as improving relations with India — but acknowledged shortcomings.”I want to be straightforward about this. This has been a rough year for our time with Pakistan and the difficulties that we’ve faced, the difficulties in the relationship, are going to continue,” Munter said at the Asia Society.

“If I give myself a report card for the last year, C or D,” he said.Munter pointed to the decision to throw out US trainers after US forces conducted a top-secret raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad,Munter also noted the tensions over CIA employee Raymond Davis, who was arrested for shooting dead two men in Lahore.The US Congress in 2009 approved a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan, hoping to fight anti-American sentiment by investing in civilian institutions instead of just the military.But Munter said that much of the assistance has been “invisible” to Pakistanis as it involved small projects and grants.

Munter said that the United States will now put a priority on boosting Pakistan’s energy supply, a major concern in a country with frequent blackouts and a rapidly growing population.”We’re going to push hard in energy and it’s going to cost a fair amount of American money, but it’s an investment in something that everyone in that country is going to feel,” he said.Appearing next to Munter, Rajiv Shah, head of the US Agency for International Development, said assistance has supported 170,000 “employment opportunities” and construction of 1,500 sites such as schools and clinics.”We don’t always talk about these results, but we need to because the programs can work and they make a big difference,” he said.

Despite the problems in relations, Munter credited US diplomacy with helping ease tensions between Pakistan and its arch-rival India.”We have been very supportive, and I think successful, in a quiet way in helping our Pakistani friends open up to India,” Munter said.Munter rejected the viewpoint widely held in Indian and US policy circles that Pakistan’s military, a major power-broker, was opposed to improving relations with India.”One myth I would like to puncture is that the Pakistani military is against the opening to India.

That is not what I hear from my colleagues in the Pakistani military,” Munter said.Munter said that better relations with India — an emerging power with growing ties with the United States — were in Pakistan’s own interest.”It’s a key game-changer. If Pakistan is to deal in the long run with employment issues, with energy issues, with water issues, it must come to grips with a strong relationship with India,” he said. – Brecorder