Islamabad: The challenge for Pakistan is to build a strong counter narrative on all fronts and improved ties with international players. Speakers at a recent seminar urged Pakistan to defend its national interest through diplomacy.
Parliamentary Secretary on Foreign Affairs Andleeb Abbas said that reforms and improving direction of the foreign policy would help Pakistan to effectively defend its national interests diplomatically and overcome diplomatic turmoil created by Indian propaganda and lobbying around the world.
Speaking at the inaugural session of a seminar on “Foreign Policy of Pakistan in Context of Strategic Coercion” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), she said the present government was working on economic, religious and cultural diplomacy to get international community aware of Pakistan’s sacrifices in War on Terror for regional and global peace.
“Trade and investments get you towards improved economic ties and diplomatic relations, whereas, aid get you towards strategic coercion. Therefore, economic diplomacy was the key focus of the incumbent government,” said the member parliament, adding that with massive investments from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates we were heading towards our aim to take major game players on our side on diplomatic front. She said religious and cultural diplomacy was another key diplomatic tool to bring the world closer to explore our country and diminish differences and misconceptions prevailing among various countries. Opening up of Kartarpur corridor was the part of this diplomacy, she added.
While commenting on the Afghan Peace Process, the Senior Security Analyst said both countries have no choice but to live in peace, as both countries have a lot of commonalities in culture, caste and religion. To improve ties between two countries, he suggested that Afghan refugees should be dealt on the humanitarian ground instead of considering them a security risk. He termed the Prime Minister’s steps of relaxing visa regime and allowing Afghan refugees to open bank accounts, a good confidence building measure, which would help reduce tensions between two countries.
Ambassador Tariq Hyder, while chairing the session, said Pakistan is hosting 1.34 million of Afghan refugees for almost 40 years and 1.5 million irregular Afghans being provided IC cards, which was appreciated by all Afghans. He said it should be noted that the diminishing international assistance for them was 2% of that provided to Turkey for hosting Syrian refugees just a few years.
Economist Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI said Pakistan is not only facing traditional coercion of ‘Do More’, but also facing economic coercion in the form of IMF conditions and restrictions. He said the hybrid warfare is now one the major challenges of Pakistan’s foreign policy and to ward off this challenge, we have to prepare ourselves. He said our common enemy is poverty, hunger, food security, climate change, inequality, unemployment and lack of drinking water and safe sanitation. The region and especially both nuclear rivals require collective action to fight the common enemy, he added.
Former Ambassador Ayaz Wazir said we are facing several issues internally including political instability and economic volatility which weaken our position on the external front. Pakistan needs to be stable and strong from the internal side to effectively confront the external coercions, otherwise poor domestic situation would not help in achieving foreign policy objectives of the country, he remarked.
Gen. (retired) Amjad Shoaib, Senior Defence Analyst said the basic principle of Indian foreign policy is to get Pakistan isolated diplomatically, declare a terror financing state and suppress indigenous freedom struggle Kashmiri people. It is unfortunate that despite losing more than seventy thousand innocent lives to terrorism, we are still labeled as terrorist state, he lamented. We failed to capitalize over evidence of Indian state terrorism in Pakistan in the form of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, where Pakistan can build its counter narrative. We must establish our innocence and credibility through a collective counter narrative, he added. Our foreign policy is reactive not proactive, he said, adding that Pakistan needs to adopt smart and proactive diplomacy in order to improve its image globally.
Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director SDPI said it is concerning to note that political tensions between India and Pakistan have already started to cost heavily in economic terms. He said the disappointing decision by Government of India to erect trade barriers will result in negatively impacting jobs and livelihoods of people associated with trade of goods on both sides. Moreover, the closure of airspace in both countries, suspension of already planned flights from abroad and domestic and cancellation of scheduled business events during the week will impose significant costs on the economy of both countries struggling to come out of poverty.
Muhammad Majid Bashir, Former Judge, Advocate Supreme Court said that Pakistan foreign policy issues were never debated on legal side. He said our foreign policy lacks lawfare, as we don’t have regional and international legal regime in place for foreign policy issues. The issues such as Kulbhushan Jadhav, Pathankot incident, FATF, Uri attack and now Pulwama require legal framework and international lawyers to understand the issues. He said Pakistan usually signed the international treaties but we don’t have the legal team to have legal framework for such treaties. Pakistan needs to have a think tank of young international lawyers to help strengthen Pakistan capacity on legal foreign policy issues, he added. Dr. Shafqat Munir, Director Policy, SDPI while moderating the seminar said the implications of strategic coercion for Pakistan are quite high as it has been subjected to variety of coercive tactics. He said we have to rethink whether or not our foreign, economic and domestic policies are aligned to realize the gravity of the situation.
Pakistan failed to present its case to the international community, whereas India was successful in propagating its narrative due to its presence of a strong lobby internally on every front. It’s hard for Pakistan to contest and resist western narrative, which built after 9/11. But after fighting against terrorism for the last decade Pakistan’s narrative against terrorism was projected and the world appreciated the efforts of Pakistan.
Muhammad Shoaib Khan is a journalist from Pakistan and has worked with NEO TV, Independent News, PBC and The Nation.