What's The Role Of U.S. Aid In Pakistan
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Senator John Kerry is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he is a key U.S. liaison to Pakistan. We asked him how relations stand between the two countries.
SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Right now, things are troubled. It's in a very difficult place for a number of different reasons. And the Pakistanis have tended to play a fairly anti-American card whenever it serves their internal, domestic political interests, which has been frequently in the last couple of years. So these are the issues: point, counterpoint, back and forth, tit for tat, which are really undermining what ought to be a much more cooperative relationship; a relationship that has enormous interests in being more cooperative.
MARTIN: The U.S. is funneling a whole lot of aid to Pakistan. I mean, you are one of the architects of the major aid package, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill, allotting $7.5 billion to Pakistan for five years. How much of that money has been allocated at this point and what can you show for it? What can you point to and say to the American taxpayer, believe me it's worth it that we keep giving money...
KERRY: Well, let me give you the upside of the things that we've been able to do. The fact is that we would not have been able to go after or find Osama bin Laden if we did not have access to the country and an intelligence capacity that was able to build the evidence for that raid. And, of course, Pakistan has a major nuclear program and nuclear weapons presence.
And it's critical for us to maintain a relationship with them. And we have a huge stake in those weapons not falling into the wrong hands, or in Pakistan not imploding. And I think personally it would be an enormous mistake just up and say, we're going to, you know, cut off everything and terminate it. It's a very complicated, difficult relationship.
MARTIN: Last question, Senator Kerry. A lot of this aid was designed to improve relations between regular Pakistanis and the United States. But there have been, even just as recently as the last week, allegations of fraud connected to some U.S. aid money. How do you respond to that when we're supposed to be winning hearts and minds?
KERRY: Well, you can't tolerate corruption anywhere in any of our aid programs. Period. I mean, that's just not acceptable. But it doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater. And...
MARTIN: But is there a problem in the Pakistanis - while they want to accept the aid, resent American influence?
KERRY: Well, you know, people are just going to have to figure that one out and get over it. I can't think of a country that has acted in better faith. I think America has been extraordinary patient. I hope the Pakistanis will make some very fundamental decisions about what is really in their best interest. 'Cause if they continue to play a hedge strategy as they have, I think they're riding the back of the tiger. And as you know, the old saying: If you ride the back of the tiger you can wind up inside.
MARTIN: That was Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, talking about Pakistan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.