- Pakistan must ensure that it is not left out
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Qatar comes only two days before the signing of the deal between the USA and the Taliban. As Qatar hosted the talks leading to the deal, and Pakistan played a crucial role in persuading the Taliban to engage with the USA, there is little likelihood that this signing will not figure on the agenda. However, after Qatar’s invitation to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the visit becomes something a jaunt. Anything that Mr Khan could do with a personal interaction with the Emir of Qatar could have been achieved by Mr Qureshi, who is accompanying the Prime Minister. The pre-signing visit does not seem likely to achieve anything of substance on the LNG front, which is one aspect, apart from migrant labour, of bilateral importance. Apart from the Afghan peace deal, Qatar is also the possessor of the third largest oil and gas reserves in the world. That would explain the presence of SAPM on gas, Nadeem Babar. The visit is also a movement away from Saudi Arabia, with which Qatar has got an ongoing dispute that has led it to develop ties with both Turkey and Iran.
With attention focused on the deal with the US-Taliban deal, Imran needs to ensure that Pakistan does not get left out. Already, there are signs that this might happen. While Pakistan should not have an objection, it should not ignore the presence of India at the signing. India had virtually no role in making the agreement, even though it has invested heavily in Afghanistan and has obtained consulates there, which it has used to spy on Pakistan. Pakistan must not also ignore the reality that the USA has fallen for the Indian claims about Pakistan being a terrorist haven, and that it wants to prop it up as a counter to China in the region.
Pakistan has previous bitter experience with the USA using it and then throwing it away, from the time the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979. It must ensure that that experience, which is still not over, as the presence of multitudes of Afghan refugees testifies, is not repeated.