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Pakistan’s recent diplomatic blunders The Excelsior 21 Dec 2021
A few days ago, Pakistan walked out of the US organized democracy summit. The Pak foreign office spokesperson stated Pakistan was ‘in contact with the US on a range of issues and believes that we can engage on this subject at an opportune time in the future.’ He refused to clarify further as Pakistan had no logical explanation for pulling out. The possible reason behind Pakistan’s decision was given by Imran Khan, while addressing the Islamabad Conclave.
Post praising the CPEC, Imran Khan stated that Pakistan has no desire to be part of any bloc, either the US or China, especially as relations between them could move further downhill. Pakistan hoped to draw favours from both nations. He even offered that Pak could mediate between the US and China, repeating its role of 1971.
Earlier Pakistan had opposed diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics announced by four nations, led by the US. The statement released by Pak read, ‘Pakistan opposes any form of politicisation of sports and hopes that all nations would come together in Beijing and afford their athletes the opportunity to compete against the best and showcase their skills.’ Evidently no nation has blocked participation of athletes, only diplomatic presence. This announcement was possibly based on a call from China.
It was evident that participation in the democracy summit had been discussed with China at the higher echelons and the Chinese leadership would have preferred Pak not attending. The Chinese were hurt as they were not invited but Taiwan was. Hence, Pakistan’s rejection could imply a message of support. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson even praised Pakistan for its of non-participation and termed it as a ‘real iron brother.’ An editorial in Pakistan’s Tribune of 11 Dec stated the most likely reason for Pakistan’s withdrawal, ‘Islamabad’s main concern was not bilateral, but trilateral — China was not invited.’
Bilawal Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, an opposition political party in Pakistan, stated, ‘Even if an ally (China) raises objections, we can raise their views and our views (at the forum), but we should never cede space.’ He implied that Pakistan was erring diplomatically by ignoring the summit. Another possible cause for Pakistan’s decision is their anger at being ignored by Biden.
Imran Khan had expected to be telephonically thanked by Biden for assisting in the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. He refuses to accept the fact that the Pakistan army and the ISI fought alongside the Taliban in its takeover of the country and the current government, comprising of Haqqani’s had been imposed by it. Further, Pakistan’s backing of the Taliban resulted in loss of lives of coalition forces. In every interview by a foreign media house, Imran is questioned whether he has spoken to Biden and is compelled to admit that he has been ignored.
Simultaneously, Imran Khan has been accusing the US by mentioning that errors made by them in Afghanistan have been placed on Pakistan’s shoulders. Addressing the Margalla Dialogue in Lahore last week, Imran stated, ‘Pakistan was held responsible for the shortcomings of the United States.’ He added that Pakistan suffered 80,000 casualties in the war on terror.
The world knows this figure is fake and dreamed up by the Pak establishment as Pak never participated with boots on the ground nor were there any ground strikes on its soil. Pakistan casualties (way below their claimed numbers) were from terrorist strikes by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which was created post the flawed attack on the Lal Masjid and comprises of Pak Pashtuns. Pakistan’s talks with the group have currently failed.
SM Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, projected a conciliatory view when he stated in the same Margalla dialogue, ‘We value our relations with the US. Looking towards the future, we don’t want a transactional relationship with the US. We want multifaceted ties that are not susceptible to the vagaries of regional and international policies.’ Within Pakistan there is a realization that its poor ties with the west, mainly the US is because it has been forced to align with China which holds the key to its survival. Its claims for improved ties with the west can only occur on approval by China.
Pakistan’s attempts to move out of the FATF Grey List suffered another setback when the recently released US, ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2020,’ stated that, ‘Pakistan made limited progress on the most difficult aspects of its 2015 National Action Plan to counter-terrorism.’ It added, ‘Pakistan did not, however, take steps under its domestic authorities to prosecute other terrorist leaders residing in Pakistan, such as JeM founder Masood Azhar and LeT’s Sajid Mir, mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.’ It also stated that terrorist groups continue to operate from Pakistan’s soil.
Pakistan is a nation aligned with China seeking funds from western controlled global institutions. Recent reports of non-payment of salaries to its diplomatic staff displays its worsening economic status. The government of Qatar even announced that it would pay staff of the Pak embassy located there. Simultaneously, Pakistan is singing to Chinese music and ignoring US convened events. Despite its announcement of not being part of any camp, it is firmly under Chinese control.
With the Taliban controlling Afghanistan by brute force and displaying scant regard for global concerns, the belief that Pakistan can push through relevant changes in Afghanistan diminish. Pakistan hosting a summit of OIC nations to support Afghanistan will be just one more summit with promises made but unfulfilled. Regional conferences to support Afghanistan appear to be reducing and aid drying up. With Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan dropping, its importance to the west is vanishing and thereby it is being ignored.
Currently, other than China, with whom it is compelled to maintain ties, Pakistan’s ties with others is deteriorating. Its walking out of the democracy summit at the last moment has pushed Pak-US relations further downhill. It is Pakistan’s policies itself which are resulting in its isolation. India just has to watch from the side lines.