Reality check

Zeeshan Haider
August 19,2019

Pakistan’s policy makers are overplaying the last week’s meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), claiming that the moot called on the request of China has brought the Kashmir issue back on the international agenda.

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Pakistan’s policy makers are overplaying the last week’s meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), claiming that the moot called on the request of China has brought the Kashmir issue back on the international agenda.

The informal huddle held behind the closed doors at the U.N. headquarters in New York did not formally issue a press statement but Pakistani, Indian, Chinese and Russian representatives individually gave out their respective positions on the recent rise in tensions between Pakistan and India following the unilateral Indian move to alter the constitutional status of the Indian-held Kashmir.

Since no formal statement came out of the meeting, it could be safely concluded the 15-member council made up of five permanent and 10 non-permanent members failed to arrive at any consensus whether to formally call a session of the council.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to media in Muzaaffarabad, capital of Azad Kashmir, had very candidly spoken about what should Pakistan expect from the UNSC and this admission should serve as a reality check for Pakistan.

He made it clear that India was a huge market of 1.25 billion people and economic interests of the entire world, including the Muslim countries, were very deeply linked to it.

One could gauge the economic benefits from the fact that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman paid a visit to India in February soon after a trip to Pakistan and promised investment worth $100 billion.

Oil-rich Gulf countries have traditionally enjoyed very good relations with India and big Indian diaspora is very well-placed in the region, actively contributing to the development of the Gulf countries.

Similarly, several Muslim and pre-dominantly Muslim nations in the Southeast Asia, like Indonesia and Malaysia, have also been enjoying very close commercial ties with India for many years.

Iran, another major Islamic state, too has close ties with India and both countries have been working very closely for the development of deep sea port in Iran’s Chabahar.

The Chabahar sea port would provide a trade access to the land-locked central Asia by circumventing Pakistan’s Karachi port as well as Gwadar.

In such a close competition for the economic benefits, it is an uphill task for Pakistani diplomats to lean these countries away from India.

Though Pakistan has a great strategic significance as it lies at the crossroads of central and South Asia as well as Middle East but this importance could only be fully exploited if conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan-India disputes, particularly on the disputed Himalayan region are amicably resolved.

Unlike Pakistan, India is a huge country and trouble in one part of the sprawling nation does not necessarily affect life in other parts of the country.

Moreover, economically Pakistan itself is vulnerable.

The way Pakistani leadership desperately wandered around the rich Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arabia Emirates, for financial assistance and loans to ward off a balance of payment crisis, has underlined the acute challenges faced by the country.

The weak economic position of Pakistan was one of the reasons that the Gulf nations did not show any interest to stand by Pakistan in the face of recent crisis over the status of the Jammu and Kashmir.

This situation has provided a golden opportunity to Pakistan to carry out an introspection to see how it can come out of these vulnerabilities.

Though Pakistan should stand guard against a possible aggressive action by India, as also mentioned by the foreign minister, it cannot take focus off its economy.

It should continue with its economic and structural reforms agenda and should not be detracted by Indian saber-rattling. Its diplomacy should focus on fending off possibility of any showdown, however small it is, without compromising on its principled stand on Kashmir.

If history is any guide, then it should not expect any support from the United States, France, and Britain in its standoff with India, though China’s bold position and indication of change in Russian policy on the conflict between Pakistan and India, particularly on Kashmir issue, are encouraging.

Poverty is already rampant in South Asia having a population of over 1.5 billion and any armed conflict would further aggravate the situation.

Economic stability can provide a nation a solid foundation to take a firm stand on international and major regional issues like Kashmir.

Pakistani leadership needs to evolve a consensus among all stakeholders on these vital issues and should tell the truth to the nation so that they should be clear about the future course of action.

As stated by foreign minister, the nation should not be living in fool’s paradise and the leaders need to guide the people to think realistically instead of raising any false hopes.

Jingoism and warmongering will serve no purpose but deflect the attention from the real issues faced by the country.

Next few months are very important as the government is also facing the challenge to curb money laundering and terror financing through effective legislation as desired by the Financial Assistance Task Force (FATF).

Pakistan is required to prepare an effective plan of action by October to get off the notorious grey list of countries financing terror. Otherwise it also runs the risk of being put on the FATF’s blacklist that could further complicate problems for the country.

But all these challenges need a national consensus and harmony. Unfortunately, the political parties, both ruling and opposition, have not shown the kind of maturity they are required to show in such a situation.

Political bickering on petty issues is still continuing that was witnessed even in the joint sitting of the parliament where instead of a very focused and informed discussion on the Modi’s provocative move, the political parties remained bogged down in blame game.

Though they passed a joint resolution rejecting the Modi government’s move to rescind the special constitutional status of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir, they failed to set any guidelines for the government on how to proceed further.

Time has come for the political leadership to show more seriousness and sobriety.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad


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