Balanced, skillful diplomacy essential for Pakistan amid evolving new world order

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ISLAMABAD, MAY 14 (DNA) – The present world order is at stake due to the coronavirus pandemic and the new world order is apparently starting to take shape with China taking the lead. Pakistan however should not opt to pillion-ride with China on every issue and must engage in skillful balancing of its relations with other important countries as well.

The thoughts were shared by former foreign secretary Riaz Hussain Khokhar in a webinar titled ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Pakistan’s International Relations at Regional and Global Levels’. The online session was organized by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad, as part of its ongoing webinar series ‘Covid-19: Global Challenges, National Response’. The discussion was jointly chaired by former secretary finance Dr Waqar Masood Khan and Executive President IPS Khalid Rahman, whereas the discussants included Ambassador (r) Tajammul Altaf, IPS’ senior research associate, Syed Muhammad Ali, senior research fellow and Ambassador (r) Ayaz Wazir.

Regarding the Covid-19 outbreak, Khokhar stated that Pakistan’s friendship with China has once again withstood the test of time. This strong relationship could also prove vital in bringing much-needed reforms to the weak health infrastructure in the country as well as the vulnerable sectors of education, agriculture, science and technology, and environment, which have been exposed in the wake of the pandemic. Pakistan’s Covid-19 graph for positive cases as well as for deaths is expected to go up with time and so it must put its act together at the earliest as failure to do so will make things very difficult for the country to handle.

The speaker advised Pakistan to maintain balanced relations with other countries such as the US alongside China in view of its own national interests. He warned that the US president is trying to whip up hysteria about China ahead of the US elections, and the tussle between the two countries including the issue of South China Sea could may well make the US pile pressure on Pakistan.

Talking about the current global scenario, the speaker said that a lot of economic disruption is going to take place due to Covid-19 whereas Pakistan’s gap between the haves and have-nots is also expanding rapidly. China, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, just like all other countries, are faced with tough times themselves due to the pandemic and may not be able to reschedule their loans to Pakistan very favorably.

Throwing light on the developing scenario in Afghanistan, Khokhar said that he ethnic mosaic of the country has been damaged considerably and there could be no peace until it is repaired. Pakistan could play a role in further facilitating talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, but it is not in a good position to do so because of the mistrust by both the entities. The spread of coronavirus in Afghanistan is also going to increase, and this will cause problems for Pakistan as well due to the flow of people crossing the border, he said.

Having spent about ten years of his service engaging directly with India, the former foreign secretary said that India is already making war sounds even in the current situation and may forge an attack on Pakistan. It would however want Pakistan to escalate the situation to shift the blame and justify its attack. He was sure that there were least chances of the two countries to engage in any meaningful dialogue in near future due to the distrust factor, and the gap, according to the speaker, was widening due to the attitude of the current government in India.

Speaking of the Kashmir issue, Khokhar said that it is nearly a non-issue for the international community just like Palestine. Pakistan does have an option to take the issue to international organizations but the problem is that the major powers operate as per their own interests and would not stand by our side. The UN Security Council is a broad-based entity on its face, but the absence of any Muslim country as its permanent member clearly shows the nonseriousness on its part. Even the OIC does not have a strong voice among the comity of nations.

He said India has already put SAARC on a ventilator, making the options for regional cooperation very limited. The ECO may offer a ray of hope for the country, especially keeping in view the evolving shape of the new world order, and more such avenues should be carefully explored to communicate our concerns over Kashmir issue to the world community.

“Pakistan cannot write off the Kashmir issue altogether with India continually engaged in a genocide in the region. The situation demands fundamental decisions about Pakistan’s stance and its future strategy on Kashmir to be taken as a nation, and those decisions should be taken through consultations involving the government, politicians, other stakeholders and the people in general,” Khokhar added.=DNA

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