US expert says Pakistan relationship is like 'salvaging a troubled marriage'

As the Barack Obama administration braces up for its second term in office, a noted American expert has said it is time for the US to scale back its relationship with Pakistan, although Washington needs to have a long-term tie with Islamabad.

"A retooled relationship with Pakistan -- scaled back yet long term -- will be most effective if its designers and implementers are mindful of what has and has not worked in the recent past," said Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior program associate for the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

In his policy brief, 'Salvaging a Troubled Marriage: Lessons for US-Pakistan Relations', Kugelman held the policy review as crucial, especially in backdrop of the US forces pulling out from the trouble-torn neighbour Afghanistan.

"In refashioning US-Pakistan policy, policymakers should bear in mind three key lessons. First, neither side exerts much influence over the other, second, limited opportunities for cooperation with official Pakistan should be seized, and third, coercive diplomacy has little utility," he said.

He also underlined need for the US engaging Pakistan's private sector and the young urban middle class, as they will play a "key role" in the country in longer term.

The author, however, held that a US-Pak relationship viewed solely through the lens of the war in Afghanistan is too limiting.

"The rationale for downsizing ties comes down to mistrust, which runs deep, and interests, which diverge sharply. Both imperil the security cooperation that constitutes the essence of the current relationship," he said.

"Furthermore, in both countries, public opinion toward the other country is hostile, depriving elected officials of the political incentive to push for a closer rapport. With the relationship on tenterhooks, a single devastating event could well sever it altogether," he said.

At the same time, the case for a relationship with Pakistan beyond 2014, when most US troops will have left Afghanistan, is compelling, he asserted.

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