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Amb. Robin Raphel Delivers Fall '13 Warburg Lecture

Amb. Robin Raphel Delivers Fall '13 Warburg Lecture

Date: November 19, 2013

Warburg Professor William M. Bellamy with Amb. Robin L. Raphel. [Photo: Kimmers Benjamin for Simmons College]

"Dangerous Relationships: United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan"

November 19, 2013 • Simmons College

(Summary Report drafted by International Relations Major Rimsha Khan, class of 2014.)

Simmons College Warburg Chair of International Relations William M. Bellamy hosted Ambassador Robin L. Raphel, currently senior advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan-Pakistan, in a well-attended Warburg Lecture on U.S. relations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.


Ambassador Raphel began her lecture by citing 1992 as the year South Asia received its own Bureau in the State Department to give the region a separate identity. Looking through the lens of Pakistan at the region, she listed reasons to study Pakistan more carefully. Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world, is in a strategic location bordering China, India, Afghanistan, and Iran, has the seventh largest army in the world, possesses nuclear weapons, and is a Muslim democracy. Looking at Pakistan from the view of the media, she stated, it is a site of enormous terrorism and violence. Among many indigenous terrorist organizations TTP, or Pakistani Taliban, and Afghan Taliban are important. Terrorism and violence have cost many lives in Pakistan over the years.

Pakistan faces a number of challenges besides violence and terrorism. It suffers energy blackouts, slow economic growth, unemployment among youth, corruption, etc. Pakistan has poor governance and poor service delivery in health and education. As a result the country has low human development levels. The country is also prone to regional disasters such as floods and has to manage complex relationships with bordering Afghanistan and India in particular.

Ambassador Raphel provided a history of Pakistan starting from Pakistani independence in 1947. It was much ahead of its neighbors during the time and became a model developing country during the fifties and sixties. Sharia Law or Islamic Code did not come to Pakistan until 1978 under the rule of General Zia. Pakistan was also a Cold War ally of the United Sates. For a number of reasons Pakistan ended up with a series of military governments which slowed the development of civil institutions. Pakistan was militarily distracted and fought three wars with India and acquired nuclear weapons after India did. These military endeavors came at the cost of human development. Pakistan was also affected by thirty years of civil war in Afghanistan and the conservative Islam that came out of that. Post the Soviet withdrawal in Afghanistan, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Pakistan, which had been withheld when the U.S. had been working with Pakistan against the Soviets. Finally after 9/11 America invaded Afghanistan and asked for cooperation from Pakistanis, who responded well.

The current scenario is as follows. In relation to Afghanistan, Pakistan fears that Afghanistan has claims on Pakistani territory because Afghans do not accept the 1947 border drawn by the British—the Durand Line. Pakistan also resents Afghans using the U.S. to counter Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. From the Afghani side, they view Pakistani's as patronizing and having taken advantage of the country in the nineties among other things. The U.S. needs a good relationship with Pakistan, which is stable and low maintenance. The U.S wants to work with Pakistan on counter-terrorism and target Al-Qaeda (which Pakistan has done) and its affiliates, get political elements in Afghanistan to reconcile, implement responsible regional policies, keep their nuclear weapons safe. On the other side Pakistanis want an end to unilateral American action in Pakistan and a responsible exit from Afghanistan.

Finally, Ambassador Raphel outlined a list of issues on which the U.S. and Pakistan can find common ground thus and build better and stronger relations. The U.S. and Pakistan both want a stable Afghanistan and end to violence. The U.S. wants Pakistan to remain and constitutional democracy and most Pakistanis want the same. There are some promising signs in Pakistan; there is new government in Pakistan willing to increasingly cooperate with the U.S. Thus, despite its challenges there are welcome new trends in Pakistan and potential for the advancement of U.S.-Pakistan relations.


Listen to Amb. Raphel's lecture at our iTunesU page: To access the podcast, click on 'Launch iTunes U' then click 'Public Access' which will launch the iTunes app. Once on the Simmons iTunes U page, you'll see the link for 'Warburg Lectures' for audio of Amb. Raphel lecture as well as audio from prior events.