Georgetown University’s India initiative


The relationship between Pakistan and US is likened to a roller coaster ride, with the usual ups and downs. Pak-US ties were at their lowest ebb in 2011, following the arrest of Raymond Davis, a top CIA operative in Pakistan, the elimination of the al-Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and the assault by US forces on a Pakistan military check post at the Pak Afghan border. Since then, the relationship has shown an upward trend for the better.
Indo-US relations suffered due to India’s long term romance with erstwhile Soviet Union but after the breakup of USSR and end of the cold war, India and the US have come closer. India offers a large market for US goods and additionally, its age old rivalry with China provides US the opportunity to use India as a bulwark against China. In this background, various US resources have partnered India for their own gains. One such project is the ‘Georgetown India Initiative’; a forum launched by Georgetown University with the stated aim to ‘strengthen research, teaching, and outreach to India.’ Irfan Noor ud Din, a highly biased scholar of Indian origin, who closely associates himself with Christine Fair, of Foreign Policy has been appointed as its Director.
Reportedly, the forum has been established with the total funding of around US $ 10 million of which large part is known to have come through the Indian Diaspora while part of it has been funded by US administration. Contrary to the natural objective of fostering closer partnership between US and India, Georgetown India Initiative organized an event titled ‘Re-imagining Pakistan’ on January 27, 2016. It featured Pakistan’s most loud critics in the town including Christine Fair and Hussain Haqqani.
The event clearly reflects that the forum is being used as a vehicle to undermine Pakistan through the duo. Both are long standing critics of Pakistan and leave no stone unturned in taking swipes against Pakistan. Hussain Haqqani, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US from 2008-2011 and managed a difficult relationship during a serious stage in the global war on terrorism, was the keynote speaker. Ambassador Haqqani discussed the future of Pakistan and its pivotal role as a rising power in international relations. He discussed the challenges of the past and elaborated upon his vision for a new Pakistan, dominated less by the historically powerful Pakistani Army. Dr Tamara Sonn, the Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor in the History of Islam in the School of Foreign Service (SFS), provided comments following the Ambassador’s remarks and led an audience discussion along with SFS Associate Professor Christine Fair.
It is interesting as well as intriguing that Hussain Haqqani, whose role as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US was dubious and damaging, finds the red carpet spread out to him in India as well as in anti-Pakistan events in the US. During his tenure as ambassador, the notorious Memo-Gate scandal erupted, in which he was named and summoned to Pakistan for interrogation. When he found the noose tightening around himself, he beat a hasty retreat. He was also accused of issuing visit visas to scores of intelligence operatives of Blackwater and other mercenaries of the ilk of Raymond Davis to wreak havoc in Pakistan.
Recently, the Defence Minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Asif, informed in a Parliamentary Briefing that Hussain Haqqani was playing an active role in placing impediments in the procurement of F-16 fighter aircraft by Pakistan from the US. As if on cue, the Indian External Affairs Ministry also jumped into the fray for opposing the arms sale albeit of limited quantity to Pakistan, thus exposing on whose behalf Hussain Haqqani had raised his cudgels against the country of his origin. Perhaps, as if following a well choreographed script, US expressed concerns regarding Pakistan’s nuclear assets, clearly forgetting US support of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)’s discriminatory waiver to India and the Indo-US nuclear deal, which has allowed New Delhi to increase its fissile material and disturb the strategic stability in South Asia.
India appears to be the country of preference for both Hussain Haqqani and his wife Farahnaz Ispahani. A fortnight before her husband’s controversial address at the “Reimaging Pakistan” event, Farahnaz Ispahani’s book titled ‘Purifying the Land of the Pure–Pakistan’s Religious Minorities’ was launched on January 13, 2016 by Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a RAW affiliated think tank in New Delhi. A good number of foreign analysts, diplomats, retired defence and intelligence officers attended the launch ceremony. Highlighting the plight of minorities in Pakistan, Indian participants mainly focused on Pakistan’s identity and argued that national identity for Pakistan was not Islam, but their being part of Indian civilization was more realistic.
During her presentation, while exaggerating the plight of minorities in Pakistan and targeting the ideology of Pakistan, Farahnaz said that religious minorities are not safe in Pakistan. Following the foreign agenda against Islamabad, Farahnaz Ispahani’s castration of the government of Pakistan’s callousness towards the minorities was welcomed by the Pakistan bashers. They found solace in diverting attention away from Indian brutality and planned genocide of its minorities at the hands of organized ethnic cleansing pogroms, which have been a matter of grave concern to its sensitive intelligentsia.
The rise of the Sangh Parivar comprising Hindu extremist outfits such as BJP, RSS VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena including other similar parties have been promoting religious and ethnic chauvinism in India by propagating ideology of Hindutva. Narendra Modi, the BJP Prime Minister was elected on the agenda of shunning secularism and was supported by the hardliner extremists. Hindu writers, artistes, intellectuals and academics have sounded the alarm at this rise of bigotry and planned extermination of the minorities. A fact very conveniently glossed over by Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani and her husband. Yet it is surprising that an elite institution like the Georgetown University has set up its premises in India and is following a parochial agenda to disparage Pakistan and to add authenticity to its schema, it is utilizing the services of known Pakistani bashers.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.

Sultan M Hali