New York: The US is now perceived as a "bigger enemy" in Pakistan than India, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has said, while voicing concern that his country is "petrified" it could be bombed every time a terror attack takes place in India, US or Europe.
Khan further said that no amount of confidence-building measures will help India and Pakistan if intelligence agencies from the two countries "interfere" in each other`s business.
"No matter how far we go with confidence-building measures, one act like Mumbai will bring us back to square one," he said.
Addressing a gathering of students at Columbia Journalism School here, Khan said thanks to the American policy in Pakistan, a majority of Pakistanis now perceive US to be a bigger enemy than India.
"What the American policy has achieved in Pakistan is something which is almost impossible to imagine. About 80 percent of Pakistanis perceive US to be a bigger enemy than Indians" even though Pakistan and India have fought four wars, he said.
"Today America is perceived as a bigger enemy, yet we are supposed to be allies."
On whether he thinks India is an "existential threat" to Pakistan, Khan said "no I don`t think so."
He said given the wars that the two countries have fought, "it is in the genes" and in the "military pysche" that India is a threat to it.
Khan said it is time that this "distrust" between the two neighbours ends.
"No matter how many confidence-building measures you have, unless we come to an understanding that our intelligence agencies will not interfere with each other or will no longer play a part in any violence in each other`s countries, one act like Mumbai will bring us back to square one."
Pakistan and India should have a "completely new relationship," as this will benefit the subcontinent, he said adding that a relationship based on suspicion is completely counter-productive for both countries.
"India needs Pakistan, Pakistan needs India," he said. The issue of Kashmir, which remains a bone of contention, should be settled on the negotiating table "rather than as this policy of Pakistan promoting militancy as it has become counter-productive for Pakistan," Khan said.
He said the reason for the growing "anti-Americanism" in his country is that while Pakistan has lost thousands of lives and billions of dollars in "someone else`s war", it is perceived as a "hired gun and slave" of the US.
"Any terror attack takes place in India, Europe and the US, and we are petrified that Pakistan could be bombed. After all the sacrifices, Pakistan is more vulnerable than before."
Khan cited the example of the Times Square bombing attempt of 2010 by Pakistani-origin Faisal Shahzad, saying had the plan succeeded, "150 targets in Pakistan could have been bombed."
"Here is a country that has paid the sacrifice for someone else`s war and yet it is more vilified than any other country," he said.
Blaming the Pakistani government for this state of affairs, Khan said had his country not gone into this war and been a sovereign, self-respecting nation, "we would not have been in this position”.
"If we had not been perceived as a hired gun of the US we would have been in a much better position to cope with extremism in our country."
The reason for the polarisation and extremism in Pakistan is that the government is "quite rightly" perceived to be a "US puppet”, he said.
"President Asif Ali Zardari is perceived as a US stooge, who does not have the credibility to deal with any militancy or extremism in Pakistan."
Khan said Pakistan has to stand on its own feet, stop taking aid from anyone and live like a self-respecting nation. Only then can it be a "friend of the US and not become a slave of the US which is what we have become right now”, he said.