A sound foreign policy



  • http://tribune.com.pk/story/944680/a-sound-foreign-policy/

    The writer, Malik Tariq Ali from Lahore, seems convinced that the Pakistan government’s stance of not answering in a positive manner the Saudi Arabia’s call for help in connection with the Yemen problem was right. He feels that the only problem was with the way it was communicated to the Saudis and that some anchorpersons needlessly spoiled matters. Now this is to under-estimate the intelligence of the Middle Eastern rulers. I am pretty sure that they would seen through it no matter how thick were the layers of sugar-coating that we applied to the bitter pill that we offered them.

    And as a justification for staying aloof, he gives the reason that we “are fighting our own belated war against terrorism, which has threatened our way of life, state sovereignty and the lives of our citizens”. However, we know that being under great pressure due to sanctions did not deter Iran from getting involved in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, as well as joining the Sunni forces in fighting Daesh (the so-called Islamic State) which has become a threat to both Shias and Sunnis. So, if much-beleaguered Iran could manage to handle so many fronts, there is absolutely no reason why Pakistan, a much bigger country, with a large nuclear-armed military could not afford limited involvement in a few more fronts.

    Another reason generally given for declining the Saudi request is claimed to be a policy to stay neutral as our involvement in Yemen – where Iran was supposed to be supporting Houthis – could strain our relations with Iran. Now, this is an unfounded fear because earlier on in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran were supporting opposing sides – Iran supporting Northern Alliance whereas Pakistan backed Taliban – but that did not make our relations with Iran any better or worse.

    The writer is hundred percent right when he claims that we are to blame for not stopping foreign funding for seminaries, ethnic and secessionist outfits. He is also right when he says that foreign policy is a complicated and sensitive matter, which needs to be handled by properly trained, seasoned diplomats instead of being managed as an additional, part-time assignment by businessmen and Generals.

    His point about public office holders, diplomats, and those at the helm at financial and other regulatory institutions should hold a single Pakistani passport is well-taken.

    However, with facilities available to wealthy and influential people to secure residential and other facilities in foreign countries even without actually taking on nationality and passport of that country reduces the significance of this matter. Like for example, on objections, Rahman Malik renounced his British nationality but that made little difference in practical terms. And I think Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s wife and children hold American nationality as well while he might be holding only Pakistani nationality. In these circumstances, his interests can not be claimed to be entirely Pakistan-centric despite his being wholly and solely a Pakistani national.

    And while successful diplomacy by Narindra Modi and Indian foreign office secured for India $ 75 billion worth of MOUs from UAE, the ineptness by our government in dealing with Saudi request played no insignificant part in it. The readers would remember the anger expressed by UAE and other Middle Eastern leaders and that must have played a part in tilting the balance in India’s favour.

    Now, coming back to Yemen issue, I must say I was terribly disappointed with the government’s stance. Despite its involvement both at eastern and western borders, and despite playing a role inside the country as well, our armed forces could surely spare some personnel for Saudi Arabia and augment this force with the recently-retired personnel. This force could be further expanded by direct recruitment and I am sure Saudi Arabia would have been more than happy paying their salaries, expenses and the cost of equipping them. This unit could remain permanently stationed in Saudi Arabia and could also help war against Daesh which many Muslim countries have already joined.

    Just the thought of contingents of Pakistan armed forces – a disciplined, well-trained and well-equipped nuclear-armed force of over six hundred thousand personnel having joined Saudi Arabia could be a great moral-booster for the Saudi and other Middle Eastern rulers and prove a deterrent to their adversaries. And having won the confidence and goodwill of Middle Eastern rulers, Pakistan could also play a role of a peace-maker between Shia and Sunni states, to end the needless tussle which is doing great harm to the Ummah. That could be a more befitting role for a force of the size and capability of the armed forces of Pakistan. It seems such a waste to see the officers of the rank of Major-General, Lieutenant-Generals and even Generals getting engaged in the battles being fought in the streets of Karachi where they meet little or no resistance, and getting all their thrills, adventures and job satisfaction out of it. No doubt this job also needs doing – in fact it is already overdue - but instead of becoming Karachi-centric, they should develop a will to work on a broad spectrum and aim higher, looking for roles befitting their status in an international context. I think all is not lost yet and there is still time to make up for the shock that we gave to Saudis and our other brothers in the Middle East.

    Karachi



  • I don't know what sort of political analysts are writing in Tribune. International politics is not facebook social likes and dislikes. It is a serious game. Rosy words and phrases do not make a good article unless it has substance - and concrete logical substance. Even all mighty super power and old ally of Saudi Arabia viz. USA didn't dare to enter Yemen although its aircraft carriers, cruisers are policing the Persian Gulf. Reason? They have already tasted the bitter fruits of entering in Iraq and Afghanistan that broke down their backbone of economy. And this writer of Tribune is saying "Pakistan made the mistake of the century by not helping out SA and not entering onto Yemen soils. Pakistan was called upon to send its forces if Houthies had crossed the borders of SA, which they did not.

    And Iran is our next door neighbor and will remain our neighbor, rains or storm. We cannot afford being sandwiched between two enemies east and west.

    And talking about Modi's MoUs with UAE, it was but natural. It has no connection whatsoever with Yemen crisis. It is definitely in retaliation of CPEC which will make Gwadar more important and attractive than Dubai where Western and Indian entrepreneurs are minting money. They are disturbed and shaken by this new development. In that China will shower their cheaper products in Middle East markets.



  • @imtiazahmed

    I would advise Imtiaz Saheb to read the material carefully before commenting on it. The link quoted in my post was for a letter from Malik Tariq Ali under the title ‘A sound foreign policy’ published in the Express Tribune. I did explain it in the opening paragraph of my post and I feel he should have opened the link and gone through it. My post was basically a comment on the above letter and it was published in PkPolitics and not in Express Tribune.

    Imtiaz Saheb Says that even all mighty super power and old ally of Saudi Arabia viz. USA didn't dare to enter Yemen although its aircraft carriers, cruisers are policing the Persian Gulf. Reason? They have already tasted the bitter fruits of entering in Iraq and Afghanistan that broke down their backbone of economy.

    First of all I object to him using the term ‘all mighty’ for the super power USA. For Muslims, only God is ‘All Mighty’ , and the USA could at the most be described as a mighty super power, and the bashing and humiliation it received in Vietnam at the hands of those it called ‘funny men in Pajamas’ makes even the ‘mighty’ status a bit of an overstatement.

    And what deterred Americans from intervening in Yemen was the opposition by the Americans back home who had got fed up with American interventions abroad. And for the same reason, the US stayed behind the scenes even in the case of Libya and Syria. Surely, it was not the cost in men and material that forced USA to stay out of Yemen because the cost of such involvement would have been insignificant by American standards.

    And he is not comparing like with like while comparing the Yemen situation with that of Iraq and Afghanistan. And the ease with which the aerial attacks by Saudis and the Gulf air forces and ground fighting by the forces loyal to the government have blunted the Houthi’s attacks and have forced them to retreat on many fronts clearly shows their vulnerability. Surely, a bit of Pakistani involvement would have made the job much quicker and would have won Pakistan the goodwill of Saudis and the Gulf States.

    Imtiaz Saheb is factually wrong when he says “Pakistan was called upon to send its forces if Houthies had crossed the borders of SA, which they did not.”

    Saudi request was for help in defeating Houthis well inside Yemen, and stopping them from getting anywhere near Saudi borders. In fact it was Pakistani stance that it would protect the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia, meaning it would act if it saw any threat of Houthis crossing the Saudi border. Obviously, this Pakistani stance greatly disappointed Saudis and their allies.

    Imtiaz Saheb says “And Iran is our next door neighbor and will remain our neighbor, rains or storm. We cannot afford being sandwiched between two enemies east and west.”

    I wrote in my post “ In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran were supporting opposing sides – Iran supporting Northern Alliance whereas Pakistan backed Taliban – but that did not make our relations with Iran any better or worse. “

    And it is not just that Iran is our next door neighbour. We also happen to be next door neighbours of Iran, but that did not stop Iran from developing very close relations with our sworn enemy India. Our relations with Iran were exemplary in the times of Shah of Iran but after him, Iran started tilting towards India and sectarian outfits in Pakistan are also partly to blame for it. As matters stand at present, Iran has defence pacts with India which would allow India to use Iranian ports in times of war.

    Moreover, Iran has asked India to develop Chabahar port and roads connecting it with Afghanistan are already under construction. This will provide an alternative route, India – Chabahar (Iran) – Afghanistan which will completely bypass Pakistan and increase further the Indian influence in Afghanistan. And this will deprive Pakistan of whatever leverage it has as a transit route to land-locked Afghanistan and this could create serious consequences for us in case of a mood-change in Afghanistan, signs of which are already visible, with Afghan cancellation of recent talks with Pakistan.

    So, if Iran feels free to develop close relations and cooperation with India without bothering much about how these will affect us, why should we have Iranian liking or disliking uppermost in our mind while designing moves which are in the interest of our allies and indeed in our own interest?

    And then Imtiaz Saheb says Modi’s MOUs with UAE have no connection with Yemen crisis whatsoever.

    Now, we know that small Gulf States have always been apprehensive of Iranian influence which has increased enormously with the removal of Saddam Hussain from the scene. Also, signing of the nuclear agreement has further reduced pressure on Iran and the western countries are now getting closer to Iran, which is bound to increase the concerns of the Gulf States. And disappointed with Pakistan’s stance on Yemen, they would have started looking for support elsewhere, creating an opportunity for India. Also, just in April this year, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash warned Pakistan of having to pay a heavy price for taking an ambiguous stand (on Yemen) adding that for Islamabad, Tehran seemed to be more important than Gulf countries. With all this happening, how could one claim that Narindra Modi’s MOUs with UAE had no connection whatsoever with our stance on Yemen?

    Karachi