- The day after
The day after widespread national condemnation of India on the first anniversary of annexation of Kashmir, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi got a bit carried away. In a talk show, he admonished Saudi Arabia for not acceding to Pakistan’s request to summon a meeting of Riyadh led OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries) foreign ministers’ council to condemn New Delhi’s atrocities in held Kashmir.
Our leadership quite naively assumes that complex foreign policy issues can be resolved by sheer optics and symbolism. When the Saudi crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, virtual ruler and popularly referred as MBS visited Pakistan last year, Khan laid out the red carpet for him, personally driving him from Chakalaka air base to the prime minister house. The same royal treatment was accorded to the UAE crown prince Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan by Khan on his short sojourn to Pakistan back in January.
Kashmir day, as usual, was orchestrated mostly for optics and domestic consumption. Actually, there are a few options for Pakistan to force India to loosen its chokehold on the hapless Kashmiri people.
The Gulf countries have tremendous stakes in India. Their economic and trade ties with New Delhi are vast and well entrenched. Pakistan does not even come close to it. Millions of Indian workforce is gainfully employed in these countries.
Saudi Aramco is buying 20 per cent stake in Indian conglomerate Reliance industries worth about $15 billion. For India, the deal is the largest foreign direct investment ever. According to estimates, Riyadh is looking to invest $100 billion in India.
While Qureshi was busy extracting maximum political mileage from the Kashmir issue, there were ominous undercurrents in our relations with Saudi Arabia that as per the norm were not shared with the people of Pakistan. For example, it came as bolt from the blue that Pakistan has paid back Saudi Arabia $1billion of the $3 billion loan Islamabad secured one and a half years ago.
The loan was given as a special favour to Islamabad to enable it to avoid a default on its international obligations. Thankfully our time-tested friend China came to the rescue, to plug the gap and immediately lend $1 billion to be parked in the SBP (State Bank of Pakistan) to shore up our foreign exchange reserves.
Those in the know of things claim that tremendous pressure is being exerted on Pakistan to facilitate a deal on Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan’s custody. Perhaps as a result of proactive diplomacy, Pakistan has offered India unimpeded consular access to Jadhav. It has also invited India to be a part of the case proceedings due on September 3 in Islamabad high court.
Unsurprisingly, the opposition, paying back in the same coin, is accusing the government of a sell-out. Painting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as an ‘Indian agent’ and being soft on Jadhav was the favourite hobby-horse of Khan and his cohorts while in the opposition.
Unfortunately, Khan spares no effort to smear the opposition. Terming its leaders as corrupt, most of them booked in NAB cases have their backs to the wall.
Hatred and contempt for the opposition knows no bounds. The opposition leadership, as a prelude to ‘Youm-e-Istehsal’, was invited to the foreign office for an APC (All Parties Conference). But the prime minister was conspicuously absent. Consequently, the leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif and PPP chairperson did not show up either
As the opposition leadership correctly pointed out, this was just a briefing held at the foreign office not an APC. On previous such occasions of national importance before the PTI assumed power, APCs and joint houses of the parliament were held with both the prime minister and opposition leadership present.
But Khan is assiduously sticking to his oft repeated stance that he will not shake hands with ‘crooks and thieves’ (of the opposition). In his lexicon the opposition is guilty as charged and hence have to be avoided like plague. This kind of self-righteous morality is anathema to smooth running of a democratic system.
Virtually all rallies on Youm-e-Istehsal were a government sponsored show. The chief minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah led a rally in Karachi sans the opposition.
Kashmir day, as usual, was orchestrated mostly for optics and domestic consumption. Actually, there are a few options for Pakistan to force India to loosen its chokehold on the hapless Kashmiri people. The foreign minister has already admitted that even our so-called Islamic brethren are not willing to annoy India by raking up the Kashmir issue.
Malaysia under Mahathir Mohamad last year summoned a meeting of Islamic countries as a counterweight to the OIC. Khan, after enthusiastically supporting the idea, conveniently opted out at the last moment buckling under Saudi pressure.
Now with Mahathir no longer in power it is highly unlikely that his successor government will stand by the proposal. Hence if Qureshi makes good on his threat to Saudi Arabia of convening an Islamic foreign ministers’ conference of his own in Pakistan, will have few takers. Apart from Turkey (and possibly Iran) we cannot count on many amongst our Islamic brethren who will stand by us through thick and thin.
Perhaps the only option is to ramp up our diplomatic efforts on Kashmir. We are thumping our chests that the UNSC (United Nation Security Council) took up the situation in held Kashmir on our request behind closed doors. Incidentally India is also a member of the body.
As expected, no statement or even a press release was issued. The meeting may have made good headlines but how did it help in alleviating sufferings of the subjugated Kashmiris?
Modi, impervious to international opinion, is relentlessly pursuing his Hindutva agenda. As if to mock the Muslims of India, he laid the foundation stone of Ram Mandir on the site of historic Babri Masjid on the very day of first anniversary of the formal annexation of Jammu and Kashmir.
Modi is able to do all this simply because India, despite being an enfant terrible in Pakistan and Indian Muslims eyes, is the darling of the west and vast majority of Islamic countries.
Leveraging itself against China, it has become an even closer strategic partner of the US. Its vast market and economic potential makes it a more attractive destination than Pakistan.
Obviously first priority should be given to setting our house in order. Making tall claims and taking cosmetic measures will not fly. Let’s face it; Khan is presiding over a divided house.
Instead of pursuing ego-driven policies perhaps it is time to cool off a little. Concerted efforts are needed to engender consensual politics both on the economy and urgent security and foreign policy issues confronting the country.