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Opinion

September 13, 2016

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A battle of wits

A battle of wits

The US-India strategic alliance, with Afghanistan acting as an usher to the new global power theatre, seems to be a harbinger of big developments in the region.

Pakistan cannot afford to remain deaf and blind to the unfolding events. The Foreign Office, in particular, has to remain vigilant and proactive in an environment characterised by shifting loyalties and changing rules. It has to re-examine some of the fundamentals of Pakistan’s foreign policy paradigm so that it does not have to put unnecessary extra burden on its weak shoulders.

The role that the Foreign Office is supposed to play has to be more or less similar to that which a typical marketing department plays in a business organisation. It scans the external environment for changes in the customers’ preferences, the scope and scale of competition, and socio-economic trends.

The information so gathered is shared with top management and other heads of business units for the purpose of formulating a winning strategy – a course of action that aligns the organisation in terms of its products, price, and promotion with its environment.

In other words, the organisation’s strategy in essence reflects SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. At times, it also tries to shape the environment and push it in a particular desirable direction. The organisation-environment fit ultimately translates into sustained financial benefits and long-term business success.

The problem occurs when the marketing department does not do its job well or individuals sitting at responsible positions in the organisation pay no attention to its input in decision making. Consequently, the products, prices and promotion campaigns developed in vacuum and based on instincts are likely to come back as a nightmare.

Despite knowing the gradual but perpetual decline, some organisations with stagnant cultures and unbending structures keep doing the same things with the expectation of getting different results. This is what Einstein called insanity.

Pakistan faces this dilemma in selling itself to the outside world. The Foreign Office either lacks the capacity or the will or both to steer the country out of the quagmire of isolation it has stuck in for so long. From Kashmir to nuclear proliferation to the war on terrorism, very few – if at all – are prepared to believe Pakistan’s narrative.

Kashmir, which used to be an international dispute back in the 50s and 60s, was reduced to a bilateral issue thanks to the Simla agreement. And now for many people it is either a non-issue or a made-in Pakistan uprising. By sending and supporting proxies, Pakistan spoiled an otherwise indigenous struggle for self-determination.

Pakistan has also failed to convince the world that its nuclear programme is meant for deterrence and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Notwithstanding a strong command and control structure and effective control mechanisms, the world is worried about our nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands. Does that mean we are an unpredictable and irresponsible nation or we have serious communication gap with the international community?

Our politicians and retired generals keep bragging about our nukes. What message does it convey to the world? What kind of impact do we want to have on the global scene?

Even our core product at present – the unprecedented and unmatched fight against terrorism – does not have any international client. Since 9/11, the country has been fighting Al-Qaeda and its affiliates relentlessly with thousands of precious lives lost and colossal damage to the economy. And yet the world either pays lip service to our sacrifices or blames us of playing a double-game.

It was not our war in the first place but now we have to embrace it as our home-grown problem and live with it for years to come in an environment of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Initially, we could not resist temptations to get peanuts and now we can’t sell our product even below cost.

Doesn’t this dismal performance of our external affairs’ wing and those who run it require a rethinking of the fundamentals of our foreign policy? Will it not be a useful exercise to prepare an income statement on the pattern of a business organisation to know how much revenue we have earned in terms of respect and recognition on the global level and have much we have paid in expenses over a period of one year?

To prepare a balance sheet, showing our assets and liabilities since our independence to date would be a welcome and healthy activity for our small but potentially strong country. Prodigals do not survive – be they individuals or states.

The writer teaches at the Sarhad

University. Email: [email protected]

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