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PTI Govt’s Toothless Diplomacy Over Kashmir

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Abdul Qayyum Kundi argues that our policy planners have shown a lack of judgment and foresight to correctly interpret the trends and geopolitical dynamics in the wake of the Kashmir crisis.

Many retired generals and foreign policy experts think that I sound angry in my public statements. I do, indeed, feel anger because our country is governed by mediocre people despite the presence of capable and talented ones. In the domestic policy, it is damaging but in foreign policy, it is fatal.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is a foreign policy novice so we can expect him to make mistakes but the larger disappointment is from COAS General Qamar Bajwa. He turned out to be a weak planner and strategist which resulted in utter failure of Pakistan in response to Indian annexation of Kashmir.

But that is not the only disappointment, Afghan peace talks also broke down. Iran and Saudi Arabia are slowly snowballing towards war. This has resulted in security risks on both our eastern and western borders.

We should not be surprised by our failure in Kashmir as it has been building up throughout the year. After assuming office, Imran Khan sent frequent messages for dialogue which were publicly rebuffed by Modi in a derogatory manner. An invitation was extended to the then Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, as chief guest to the OIC summit in UAE, despite our protest and eventual boycott.

Absence of Kashmir from the OIC communique was another indicator that our diplomacy is failing. We did not get alerted by these failures to ensure that UAE and Saudi Arabia will either stay neutral or support our position. Not just that, China has issued a statement that Kashmir is not on the agenda of President Xi visit to India in October. Europe, USA, and the UN has advised us to pursue bilateral dialogue.

Our government is using human rights to rally world opinion. Overseas Pakistanis have played a significant role in this strategy. This alone will not produce any result especially in the absence of a well thought-out plan for the state diplomacy. Rohingya, Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Syria all are a humanitarian crisis but the world community is not able to push any of the players in these conflicts to change their position.

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Imran Khan was a lead campaigner against collateral damage in drone strikes and took a 32-mile long luxury cars rally to Waziristan. Did it change American policy about drone strikes? It seems he did not learn anything from that experiment. A nation-state cannot expect to use a humanitarian cause for its sovereign rights and interests.

In his speech in Muzaffarabad, the PM informed us that he is preparing a speech to deliver in UN General Assembly. That is his major policy plank which is another evidence of his lack of grasp of matters of state. This toothless foreign policy has emboldened Narendra Modi to shift the debate from Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) to Azad Kashmir. A nation-state has to act with strength and resolve to protect its interests and push back aggressors. All its resources should be available to pursue those interests.

Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, instead of visiting world capitals to develop support, has been holding rallies in South Punjab. And this proves that he is incapable to be an FM. Failed policy on Kashmir is another proof of that. He formed an advisory committee is stacked with people who cannot present independent and in-depth advice. It seems they were included in the committee to rubber-stamp a narrative rather than provide wise advice to develop out of the box ideas.

What could have been done? I sent my suggestions to the government and opposition parties and will send another memo, in the next few days, in the aftermath of drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

But the key point to ponder is that our policy planners have shown a lack of judgment and foresight to correctly interpret the trends and geopolitical dynamics. They seem to have no long term vision and mostly react to the events that are already unfolding.

I have always advised that our planner have to look at the historical relationship of various players in the region to develop possible scenarios. For instance, India and China have never fought a major war in the last 3000 years. Can we expect that they will defy history and fight a war for us?

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America is betting that they can evolve as competitors and we seem to hope the same. Hindu/Buddhist and Confucian cultures, ideologies, and values competed for prominence but they always co-existed. Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Sri Lanka, and many other countries of the region adopted some of these philosophies.

Similarly, Afghanistan and Iran have never fought a major war. For millennia, Afghanistan existed as a buffer between Central Asia, South Asia, and Iran. In this perspective, can Iran be ignored to find a solution to the Afghan war? I have been saying for many years that Modi wants to Balkanize Pakistan.

The annexation of Kashmir is a step in that direction. The threat to annex Azad Kashmir is a decoy to hide the real intentions and move the debate in a different direction.

As a nation, Pakistan is a new kid on the block and still struggling to find firmer ground to stand on. We toggle from one power center to the other and always ready to become a client state.

Pakistan and Iran both are weak economically and militarily. But Iran is hiding its weaknesses and acting as a strong state ready to take action to protect their interests while we are acting as a weaker state than we are.

We are not as weak as we are being projected by our current government. Imran Khan may hide his foreign policy failure behind being a pacifist, but this has endangered our very existence. Our current government is unable to defend us against this aggression. This has to be corrected as soon as possible. Current republic has inherent weaknesses that will never allow us to be a stronger state. A new republic has to be built.

 

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