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September 19, 2019

Pakistan getting ready ahead of PM

Peshawar

September 19, 2019

After Pakistan’s successful diplomatic lobbying at UN Human Rights Council and European Parliament, securing sharp rebuke of Indian clampdown in IOK, all eyes are fixed on UN General Assembly where Prime Minister Imran Khan will be delivering perhaps one of the most important speeches of his life.

Even more significant will be his rejoinder to Prime Minister Modi who is scheduled to address the UNGA before his speech. Prime Minister would have taken heart from the fact that the UNHRC and European Parliament had vividly expressed concerns on India’s abrogation of Article 370 on IOK—the general toner and tone of the language of pronouncements of the above bodies were quite harsh against India and were unexpected as well.

Besides, opportunity to engage the world audience, PM is also scheduled to meet President Trump on the sidelines. Trump will be glad that Pakistan has paid heed to Washington’s pleas for de-escalation: instead of tit-for-tat action against India in response to the annexation of IHK by Delhi, Pakistan took diplomatic route.

He will also be cognizant of the fact that tension has not ratcheted up beyond a certain level and no major violence between the two countries has been witnessed so far thankfully.

And India wanting to sense Pakistani muscles by deploying strike corps, quickly realised Islamabad’s tactical weapon deployment capability and pulled back to almost 65km inside its territory.

Going forward, the first challenge prime minister is facing as to how politely nudge President Trump to make good on his offer of mediation, though the US is constantly refusing to have any leverage to push India for such offer when Pakistan wants foreign mediation.

So far there is no appetite in the US policy making establishment for any mediation on Kashmir.

The second challenge is how PM can put pressure on India through his speech and sideline diplomacy. He and his team can smartly play the human rights situation in IOK by pulling off meetings with the heads of Human rights bodies like HRW, AI, ICG etc, to expose Indian aggression in IOK, in the full glaze of world media gathered to cover UNGA proceedings.

Then he can succinctly set out Pakistan’s narrative:1) reference to IOK being a disputed territory, 2) reference to UN resolutions and, 3) observer mission not being there in IOK, as part of his talking points. Prime minister does not need to invoke analogy of Nazi Germany and Holocaust—they would ring no bell with western audiences and policy makers, nor appeal to their imagination.

Like Crimea for Russia, IOK will continue to be an albatross for India but like Ukraine not getting Crimea immediately, Pakistan may not get IOK instantly; yet, its narrative will start to unleash a process of slow burn: deconstructing the myths of Indian democracy, secularism and its soft image in western audiences.

Russia was slapped with EU and UN sanctions partly motivated by geo-political compulsions, India may not be sanctioned; but anyhow, Pakistan can push for sanctions as the next step if the human rights’ situation in IOK turns worse.

Looking good on Pakistan’s decision not to link Kashmir situation with Afghanistan (i.e, to the relief of Trump Administration) Imran Khan’s third challenge is stalled Afghan peace talks, which President Trump has temporarily walked away from. Realising the US’s military aid, financial assistance, expertise and experience for Afghanistan have already peaked and that Pakistan has established itself in the eyes of the US and Nato as responsible stakeholder holder, PM will be trying to convince President Trump to reconsider his position on the Taliban reconciliation, before the rupture is made permanent by other spoilers within the US and in the region.

Imran Khan also has to impress upon the US that Washington has run out of its luck on its Afghan policy for a quick fix and easy choices and hence no easy feat to ignore Pakistan being important country not to continue to work with on Afghanistan.

Going by the pronouncements of various US officials, however, there is also a fair chance President Trump may signal a change of heart on this issue. Both sides must be engaged to produce a positive outcome out of the impending summit between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Trump.

For now the next battleground for Pakistan’s diplomacy has moved from Genoa to New York at the UNGA, and unlike his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, confident PM Khan will likely be delivering a combative speech at the UNGA—a hallmark of his public diplomacy.

The writer is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Balochistan, and ex-adviser to the Balochistan government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. He is also Chairman of Centre for Geo-Politics & Balochistan

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