Thursday April 18, 2024

Correcting inadequate structures and policy voids

By Shireen M Mazari
May 31, 2018

Pakistan gets placed on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Grey List. The US threatens Pakistan on multiple counts but we remain silent. India increases its cross-LoC and Working Boundary attacks, but Pakistan does not raise the issue in the UN (at least not effectively).

India gets membership of three of the four supplier cartels — the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016; the Wassenaar Arrangement in December 2017; and the Australia Group in January 2018 — leaving only the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). So while India is building up its credentials for the NSG membership, Pakistan shows no diplomatic activity on this front beyond relying on China to do the needful vote against.

A report in Veterans Today, dated May 28, 2018, refers to the presence of an Israel Defence Force Command Unit “newly stationed” in Western Afghanistan, but no statement of concern or protest comes from Pakistan. These are just some of the developments that reflect the complete void in external security policy that confronts Pakistan today — at a time when the country is facing multiple complex threats within the region and beyond.

Especially since 9/11, Pakistan’s foreign policy has, at best, been a series of confused, ad hoc responses to events impacting us and, at worst, non-existent in any form reflective of a cohesive policy. The most damning evidence of this was when Pakistan informed the ICJ about the 2008 bilateral Pak-India agreement on consular relations in our opening remarks on the Jadhav case last year.

Pakistan was informed that, because it had failed to register this agreement with the UN as was required, it could not be held relevant for preliminary proceedings on provisional measures before the ICJ. Then we realised the blunder and registered the agreement. That the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had allowed this critical procedural lapse reflects the disarray within our policy-implementing structures.

Unfortunately, not only have we lost a sense of direction in foreign policy formulation, we have also decimated our institutional structures through which policy has to be operationalised through ad hocism and political nepotism along with an inability to update institutions to meet the demands of modern diplomacy. From having well-trained and well-informed diplomats who made Pakistan’s presence felt on global and regional forums, we have a Ministry of Foreign Affairs that struggles to meet the growing demands of multi-level and specialised diplomacy, which is the need in today’s world.

We not only need a vibrant, long-term foreign policy premised on our national priorities, but also require an updated professional and specialised Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While inputs must come from all stakeholders — civil and military — there has to be a cohesive lead ministry, which has to be that of foreign affairs. Different ministries cannot be conducting their own external policies with no coordination. One of the reasons for our FATF debacle was the fact that the lead ministry in this case was apparently the finance ministry, which was without a minister for the months leading up to the debacle and clearly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was at sea on this issue.

The first step that needs to be taken is to build the capacity of the Foreign Office to enable it to meet the requirements of an ever more complex world that demands specialised knowledge and skilled diplomats. Even where seasoned diplomats are available, nepotism rides roughshod over rational selection and merit. However, over the long term, recruitment into the Foreign Service has to be selective, with applicants having at least a basic knowledge of world history. The colonial civil service recruitment pattern of generalists is outmoded as this is the age of specialists.

Additionally, our missions have to be restructured — especially those missions which deal with multilateral and bilateral diplomacy, such as those in Brussels and Vienna. Presently, there are barely enough diplomats in these two missions to deal with the vast array of issues confronting us in the EU and the UN in Vienna where the IAEA is also headquartered. Our diplomats have to be active in these multilateral forums as well as deal with bilateral relations — and, in some cases, the envoys posted here are accredited to more than one European country. Sadly, the number of diplomats in such missions is insufficient as many of the posts are filled by non-diplomatic personnel. An immediate review of all these missions is needed to enable our diplomacy to function effectively.

An even more glaring void is the lack of a strong international law division in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where barely one international law expert is present and often that post also goes the way of nepotism. Increasingly, diplomacy has to deal with international law, treaties, UN regulations and the growing demands of international institutions that impact our national policies — from economic issues to terrorism to arms control and disarmament to multilateral EU regulations.

A complete lack of coordination among critical components of external policy acts as a further deterrence to effectively furthering the country’s interests. External publicity, which rightfully was and should be a part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was removed from this ministry and has become a major source of political appointments undermining the effective projection of Pakistan through dealings with the foreign media in our missions abroad.

Imagine posting an information officer in France, for example, who has to interact with the French media but does not speak a word of French. Yet, that is what has been happening in so many of our missions abroad, but no one has cared for decades about the negative impact this has been having. Is it any wonder that our point of view is never communicated effectively in parts of the world where English is either not commonly spoken or not regarded positively?

Apart from updating and strengthening the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by expanding its institutional capacity, capability and global outreach, proper coordination among all the stakeholders must be instituted in a structured manner. Different institutions cannot be conducting their own external policies. Why blame our diplomats who are confronting an archaic institutional framework and internecine turf wars?

Finally, alongside these structural reforms, which incidentally can be initiated rapidly if the will and determination are there, we have to formulate long-term external policies premised on the norms and principles of reciprocity, and mutuality of interests. We have to move towards conflict resolution — resolution will take time but the movement towards that end goal has to begin with clarity. Contrary to sceptics and critics, there is no confusion over how to proceed forward towards conflict resolution. But consensus among stakeholders is essential for proceeding from a position of strength and commitment.

What our traditional rulers have always forgotten is that the goals underpinning our policies are always long term, therefore requiring cohesion in these policies. It is strategies and tactics that have to continuously be adapted to prevailing circumstances. That is why we are presently devoid of cohesive external policies and confused over strategies and tactics. Alas, the ignorance of our policymakers has been disastrous for our nation.

The writer is a PTI member and DG of her own think tank SSII.