Monday July 22, 2024

Diplomatic blunders

By Saleem Safi
December 27, 2019

When PM Imran Khan was going to attend the UN General Assembly session, with the single agenda of Kashmir – and claiming to be its ambassador – he first went to Saudi Arabia.

If Kashmir was Imran Khan’s priority, then he should have gone through countries like Malaysia, Turkey and Iran that had supported the Kashmir cause at the cost of their bilateral relations with India. But, surprisingly, he went through a country which is nothing more than a silent spectator on Kashmir. This was the first diplomatic blunder.

From Saudi Arabia, Imran Khan went to New York via a private plane of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. Going to such an important forum on a plane of a third country was indeed detrimental to Pakistan’s image as a sovereign country. This was the second diplomatic blunder.

Once in the US, he started claiming he was mediating between the US and Iran. Imagine how Iran would have taken this claim from a leader who had travelled on a Saudi plane; Saudi Arabia is seen as an arch rival of Iran. This was the third diplomatic blunder.

In New York, the leaders of Malaysia and Turkey proposed a new coalition and a joint TV channel aimed to address the problems of the Islamic world and to highlight Islamophobia. Imran Khan joined hands with them without realizing and sensing the reaction of the Arab world. Claiming it as a big achievement, he also tweeted about the proposed TV channel. This was the fourth diplomatic blunder.

However, Saudi Arabia expressed disappointment and displeasure at such an initiative while Imran Khan was still in New York. It could be one of the reasons that the Saudi plane carrying Imran Khan back home was diverted to New York. Once this happened, it was more prudent to return to Pakistan silently through a PIA plane or some other airline. Instead, the prime minister took the route of Saudi Arabia on the way back home. However, there was no prince at Jeddah Airport – or even a governor – to receive him and give him protocol. He waited in the lounge along with the foreign minister. This was the fifth diplomatic blunder.

If it was our diplomatic compulsion to please Saudi Arabia and the UAE at any cost, then the rational approach was to keep a distance from the Kuala Lumpur Summit. Unfortunately, instead of doing that, the three countries were assured till the eleventh hour that Pakistan would be participating in the summit. Not only this, the Kashmir issue was also placed on the agenda of the summit – on Pakistan’s demand. Seasoned and veteran diplomats had advised that Saudi Arabia and the UAE would not agree on Pakistan’s participation in the summit. But the PM was adamant, and sure that he would persuade Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.

Then a Foreign Office spokesperson issued details of the prime minister’s trip, according to which the prime minister would go first to Saudi Arabia, then to Bahrain, Geneva and finally to Malaysia. PM Imran went to Saudi Arabia and there it was decided – and revealed – that he would not go to Malaysia to attend the summit. Instead, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would represent Pakistan in the summit. This was the sixth diplomatic blunder.

Going to Saudi Arabia and from there cancelling the Malaysia visit would have been noticed intensely by Turkey, Malaysia and Iran. And their displeasure would have increased. In other words, by this act, we conveyed a message to these friendly countries that we could not stand by our promise due to pressure from their rival.

On top of this, the next day it was decided that the foreign minister would also not attend the summit. This was the seventh blunder. It must have been very shocking when it was revealed that Pakistan refused to participate in a forum which was formed by friendly countries in consultation with PM Imran Khan and in which the Kashmir issue was also on the agenda.

Turkey, Malaysia and Iran had come forward with strong support, after China, when Modi changed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Now the question is: will these three countries continue their support to Pakistan and Kashmir after these diplomatic blunders and the humiliating response they got from us?

Saudi Arabia is no doubt our great friend, but every government in Pakistan has ensured a policy of neutrality and avoided to become a party in conflicts in the Muslim world – especially between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Despite our close ties with Saudi Arabia, the governments of Iran, Turkey and Malaysia were satisfied that Pakistan’s foreign policy was free from any other country’s influence. But due to our strategic blunders and diplomatic follies, we have now showed the world that we have no independent foreign policy. What could be more embarrassing than that? Sadly, we have neither any realization of its impact nor the time to discuss and debate it.

This is just a glimpse of the blunders we committed in our dealing with friendly Muslim countries. Our strategic and diplomatic blunders over the past year and a half on the China and US fronts are too huge to be fixed by any future government. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Imran Khan is not fully aware of diplomatic sensitivities but considers himself to be a world leader. On the other hand, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is still dreaming of being prime minister instead of focusing on his work.

Instead of using experienced people, the prime minister has kept mysterious characters like Zulfi Bukhari on his side. Such people have vested interests and are focused on expanding their personal businesses.

As a result, there has been a series of diplomatic blunders which are detrimental to the country’s credibility and its national interests. Every concerned individual wonders when this serious of blunders will end and what it will bring to Pakistan eventually.

The writer works for Geo TV.

Email: saleem.safi@janggroup.