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January 28, 2020

Pakistan enjoys enormous respect at UN: Maleeha Lodhi


January 28, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan enjoys enormous respect at the United Nations (UN), the country’s former ambassador and permanent representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi told the audience, saying the country should be proud of this fact. Lodhi, who is the first woman diplomat to represent Pakistan at the UN, was speaking to the Roundtable on ‘Pakistan and the UN: Challenges to Multilateralism and Opportunities’ on Sunday in the DHA.

Pakistan’s engagement at the UN started very early, “within months of our independence.” That was a very smart move at that time because we got independence earlier than many countries in Africa and even in Asia making us the leaders of the decolonization process – helping many of these countries, and were able to enjoy strong voice, she explained, “When these countries became members, they thanked us, looked up to Pakistan and they were obviously grateful to Pakistan for the role it had played.”

The world now, she said, is in a lot of disarray. “We see increasing multi-polarity, which means no single power in the world will achieve outcomes of its own choice,” she said and added that the countries have to ally and partner with others in order to achieve their goals. Lodhi believes that the very notion of power is also changing globally. “It’s not just the military or economic strength that determines a country’s standing in the world. It is also about soft power which is your [state’s] ability to appeal and attract, through means other than economic or military strength,” she said. However, this doesn’t mean that the military and economic strength don’t matter, but it’s no longer sufficient.

Citing the examples of Singapore and Ireland, Maleeha said “they are tiny countries in terms of population and geography, but what they are able to do, partly because of their economic position and also because of the way they project themselves in the world with their culture.” As for Pakistan, she said that it deployed both soft and hard power at the UN. Soft power in terms of people like Dr Mahbubul Haq, who contributed so much to the Human Development Index and how it is computed, Dr Nafis Sadiq, who held UN family planning agency and Dr Shamshad Akhtar who served as a senior adviser to Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and as Vice-President of the World Bank. As for the hard power, Pakistan has been the world’s top contributor to UN Peacekeeping.

Maleeha said that she could reach the UN secretary-general anytime because he’s so grateful to the country for the troops it sent for UN peace keeping. “That’s the leverage that we have,” she said and added that since 1960, Pakistan has sent 2,000 troops who served in 46 nations and 28 countries around the world. “That’s an extraordinary contribution towards world peace.”

The UN negotiations take place as part of the negotiation blocs. Pakistan has negotiated as part of Non-Alignment Movement, Organization of Islamic Countries and on several economic and development issues in which Pakistan has played a very prominent role. We sometimes shaped positions – along with other countries,” she said.

“The renewal of geopolitical tensions which the UN general secretary very recently described are at a peak after decade,” Maleeha said. This has direct implications for Pakistan as well. As for Asia, she said that it is believed to be Asia’s century. “This happens to be true.”

Another standing of Pakistan at the UN is that it has repeatedly won elections to key bodies and served seven times as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council,” she shared. “That is no minor matter. Some of the big countries lose elections to important UN organisations. Some of the permanent five countries are losing elections increasingly now.” The fact that small countries are winning an election is also an example of multi-polarity. Pakistan has served seven times and has been elected four times to the UN Human Rights Council. “You can’t win an election at the UN without the support of Africa. They’re over 50 countries. They usually vote in alignment with each other,” she said. When she went to these African countries for lobbying, with which Pakistan hardly has any diplomatic relations, they used to thank the country for its contribution to the peacekeeping missions.

We are also dealing with a world of fewer alliances. “There are ad-hoc alliances formed from time to time,” she said. In the past, Pakistan was aligned with one bloc. On an issue like migration on which West is clamping down, we need to see where our alignment lies. “The challenge for Pakistan is to re-conceptualize to conduct itself in this new environment,” she said.

The UN Security Council, she said needs to discuss its primary responsibility which is of maintaining international peace and stability. “It is often seemed paralyzed, things are very acrimonious and there’s a deadlock,” she said. The recent case in the point is the assassination of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. “It was not even discussed in the Security Council. So you can imagine that such a consequential event was not even discussed,” the former diplomat said. Iran and America, however, addressed letters to the president of the Security Council.

The result of this is that the long-standing issues, including Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine issues, remain unaddressed. A number of negotiations held at the UN remain inconclusive. Whether it’s Yemen, Libya or Syria, Lodhi said that these would be discussed, “but we won’t really see a conclusion or solution, because of the profound disagreements amongst the Security Council members.” Speaking on the rules of international order, she said several countries who signed agreements later abandoned them like America’s withdrawal from the climate change agreement, withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran which was backed by the Security Council. This was a unilateral action undermining the Security Council’s resolutions.

Kashmir is Pakistan’s core foreign policy and is one of the oldest issues on the Security Council’s agenda along with Palestine. “There’s an agenda item on the council called "Indian Pakistan" and that’s the agenda item under which Kashmir is still there,” she explained. “We have used every forum that we can [at the UN] to keep the issue alive.”

In the wake of India’s illegal annexation of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, she said that she played the role in the Security Council’s first meeting exclusively on Kashmir in 53 years. “The first meeting shows what has been happening in Kashmir and the lack of enforcement and the lack of execution of the council resolutions,” she said and added that there are 11 Security Council resolutions on occupied Kashmir that remain largely unimplemented.

Over the year, one or another permanent member has protected the interest of India in such a way that these council resolutions were not implemented. “But that doesn’t mean that we give up. It means that we continue to ensure that the issue remains there and that the diplomatic cost for India for its actions that it has taken in Jammu and Kashmir continues to be raised.”