Wednesday April 17, 2024

Pakistan has no zero-sum view of ties with China, West, says Maleeha

By Murtaza Ali Shah
December 06, 2020

LONDON: Pakistan sees an opportunity for improved relations with the US under a Biden administration and hopes it will lead to more stable and broad-based ties, former Ambassador Dr Maleeha Lodhi said in a wide-ranging presentation to a think-tank here.

In her address by Zoom to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the ex-envoy to the UN, UK, and US, Maleeha Lodhi ranged over a wide canvas describing the geo-political trends that shape Pakistan’s foreign policy choices and regional dynamics that present imposing challenges.

She made it clear that Pakistan had made a strategic choice in forging a closer relationship with China, now cemented by China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), but that did not mean it had a zero-sum view of its relations with the West.

Ambassador Lodhi said that rising tensions between the US and China have a direct bearing on Pakistan. Even as Islamabad does not want this confrontation to affect its relations with either of the two countries that, she said, is easier said than done especially in view of Washington’s strategy to parley India as a strategic counterweight to China and Modi’s India prepared to side openly with the US. She said she hoped Washington would have a more balanced policy approach towards South Asia because lack of an even-handed approach to the region would have a destabilising effect and would not help promote regional peace and stability.

Maleeha described Pakistan’s most imposing foreign policy challenge to be management of relations India in the aftermath of the Modi government’s repressive actions in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K). She described the grim situation there in detail urging the international community to act to ensure an end to human rights abuses there. She said Pakistan regards aggressive moves by India on the Line of Control (LoC) and covert actions to promote terrorist activities in the country as a toxic mix of actions that have sent tensions soaring to a record high and have ruled out any dialogue.

On Afghanistan, Maleeha asserted that Pakistan has a vital stake in the success of the intra-Afghan talks that can end war in the country which has over decades proved so destabilising for the region and left Pakistan with a host of problems including millions of refugees. There is also a danger she explained if an agreement is not reached between the Afghan parties and international forces leave the country, this could plunge the country into another phase of civil war and instability. This is a nightmare scenario, but one that Pakistan may have to prepare itself for.

On the Middle East, she said Pakistan would welcome the US rejoining the Iran nuclear deal as indicated by President-elect Biden. She also described how Pakistan had sought to balance its relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.