Pakistan’s Seventieth Anniversary and International Relations in 2017

Pakistan must not pay the price for the adventurism of other countries

Immigration crackdowns are a commonly used political ploy in western countries but president Trump has infamously institutionalised Islamophobia by banning Muslims from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US. Sir Mo Farah, the Somali born British super-athlete denounced the American president by saying that the “Queen made me a knight, Donald Trump made me an alien”. Kim Kardashian highlighted that more Americans die falling out of bed annually (737) rather than those killed by jihadists (2). Theresa May “does not agree” with the Muslim ban. The vicar’s daughter also claims that the UK will not sleepwalk into America’s dirty wars. But the tough talking prime minister, decked out in her trendy clothes and bright red nail polish, could not resist his charms and held hands with him as they walked down a tricky slope in the White House to show off their “special relationship”. But since he wants to make a fantastic success of Brexit – which he calls a “wonderful thing” – how could she resist?

The recent UK Supreme Court decision that she cannot unilaterally trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and bypass Parliament has not gotten her off to a flying start. Her new best friend’s Muslim ban has also suffered a blow at the hands of a federal judge in New York. British foreign secretary Boris Johnson branded the ban “divisive and wrong” and there is public pressure to cancel Trump’s state visit to the UK later this year. According to the New York Times, “it would take massive effort to create a trade deal if even minimal effect” and of course no deal is legal until the UK remains in the EU.

President Trump, who calls the EU “the consortium”, is like an excited rich kid with a new toy, i.e. nearly unlimited power. Since he has no experience of public service he looks out of place in the Oval Office. Driven by an “America first” strategy, his crazy actions have been universally denounced. But, of course, he must please the Americans who voted him into the White House otherwise he will be hated by the whole country, not just half of it. He has been described as “ignorant, prejudiced and vicious in ways that no American leader has been”. With her usual charisma, German chancellor Angela Merkel has called the ban “unjustified” because it breaches America’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.

Indeed, our leaders must also adopt a “Pakistan first” approach with the new American president. For example, if he bans Pakistanis, our government will be well advised to follow the example of Iran and enact immediate counter measures. Retaliation of that nature requires the type of courage our politicians are unlikely to be able muster up. Trump’s demonisation of neighboring Mexico and the insanity of building a border wall paid for by poor Mexicans shows he lives in a complete bubble. Notably, none of the 19 hijackers who conducted the 9/11 attacks were from the banned countries – 15 were Saudis, two were from the UAE and one was Egyptian and another Lebanese. Indeed, on any view, nowadays the mullahs of Tehran appear to be more reasonable than the new American leadership.

Like the state of Pakistan itself, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) will turn 70 years old this year. We will be hosting a series of events in November later this year as a part of our Seventieth Anniversary celebrations. Updates will be provided on the programme in due course and we shall examine the other faces of the new American president and the madness that his rule entails. It will be interesting to see whether or not Trump holds hands with Modi when the Indian prime minister visits him later in the year.

Details of a recent event held by PIIA can be found below.

IR experts urge ‘Pakistan first’ foreign policy – by Ramsha Jahangir published in Dawn on 22 Jan 2017.

Keeping in view the developing global political and economic situation, experts of international relations have advised the government to evolve its diplomatic policy and not play victim to foreign intervention. This was stated during a dialogue session on Changing scenario of world politics during 2017 held at PIIA. During the session, foreign affairs specialists concentrating on various aspects of international affairs mutually concurred that the country’s sole reliance on foreign powers, mainly the United States and China, would not resolve internal problems.

Drawing attention to the possibility of a strategic centre being established by the US in Pakistan in future, Dr Talat Wizarat, a noted scholar in the field, said: “The government should be careful and not pay the price for the adventurism of other countries,” she argued. Emphasising growing mistrust in the neighbourhood towards Pakistan and uncertainty following change in the US administration, Dr Wizarat warned that the centre could further destabilise the country. “Securing nuclear weapons and strengthening diplomatic ties are our government’s responsibility – national interest comes first,” she said. Accentuating upon the impact of non-state actors on national and foreign policy, journalist Mazhar Abbas said:

Non-state actors are more powerful than the state in the country. There are at present about four million aliens in Karachi, excluding Afghan refugees – who are more vulnerable to these entities.

The increasing pressure from the non-state actors was obstructing implementation of the National Action Plan, he added while questioning whether Pakistan was a victim of its own creations or others’ intervention.

Giving prominence to consequential repercussions of the post-Brexit scenario and US President Donald Trump’s administration, Dr Khalida Ghous of the University of Karachi’s Department of International Relations said:

The government is predominately occupied with terrorism – it must extend foreign policy to other global concerns as well.

Commenting on US President Trump’s speech at the inauguration ceremony, she said that the US had been conditioned in maintaining influence on global politics and it was unlikely that it would pull out troops from conflict areas and focus on “America First” policy.

Building up on the need to devise an inward approach to national and diplomatic policy, columnist Agha Masood said:

Domestic problems are on the rise, the economy is dependent on international aid, there is no contribution to human capital – how will the foreign policy improve?

Setting up of US strategic centre in Pakistan fraught with danger’, by Anil Datta published in The News International on 22 Jan 2017.

Allowing the US to set up a strategic centre in Pakistan is fraught with danger as, once entrenched here, it will be used against China and Russia and there’s not a thing that Pakistan could do about it. It would just jeopardise our ties with these states. This warning was sounded by Dr Talat Wizarat, former professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi, at the PIIA. She was one of the intellectuals and analysts who had assembled to give their prognoses in the global, regional and local fields in politics, economics and strategic affairs for the year 2017.

“There’s talk of such a development going on, but our rulers should be warned that it will be a very unwise move,” said Dr Wizarat. “I look upon the Afghan-Iran-Russia-and Pakistan relations as a very positive development and allowing the US strategic centre will just whittle away the cordiality among the four countries, as Iran and Afghanistan, still being relatively unstable, the US could be induced to any action, thus jeopardizing Pakistan’s international affairs equation.”

Besides, she said, it could help the US realize its agenda of “securing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”. Starting off the discussions, former Sindh governor Kamal Azfar said Pakistan never had a foreign policy; it just had foreign relations. In a tribute to ZA Bhutto’s sagacity, he said that the late prime minister had made two predictions in 1975 when he himself was a minister in Bhutto’s cabinet. The first one was that there would be instability in Afghanistan for decades to come. Secondly, he said that there would be revolution in Iran.

Talking about the much touted globalisation, he said that globalisation without a requisite political infrastructure would be futile. He was of the view that globalisation was on its way out and that the nation-state was re-emerging. He was of the view that good relations with neighbours through appeasement was not the answer to diplomatic issues. Noted intellectual and former federal minister Javed Jabbar said politics was the supreme element in the life of nations and that it could not be divorced from economics or strategic affairs. He was of the view that multilateralism was on its way out and, in this context, he cited Brexit and the squabbling within the Arab League.

Lauding the quadrilateral alignment among Russia, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, he said that for Pakistan, challenges were as much internal as external and remarked:

We need to reform our political institutions and also we must resume back-channel diplomacy as regards our ties with India.

Senior journalist and analyst Mazhar Abbas was of the view that events pertaining to Indo-Pak ties were being determined by non-state actors. He said that today there were four million aliens in Karachi – excluding Afghan refugees. This, he said, was rending our social milieu asunder, and our domestic woes would make Pakistan an ideal target for the machination for foreign powers.

Dr Khalida Ghous, also a former professor of International Relations at the Karachi University, cited the emergence of Rightists in France, Austria and the Czech Republic which she thought could make the year 2017 rather turbulent for global affairs.

Talking of the frailty of multilateralism, she cited the example of Brexit. She said that the provision of human rights and justice to the masses would assume added importance in the era of globalisation. Dr Uzma Shujaat cited the dangers the year 2017 could see from terrorism and radicalisation. She said the culture of intolerance that was taking birth in Pakistan and other parts of the world would have to be nipped in the bud right away.

Retired admiral Qadir called for the immediate restoration of democracy and a total end to feudalism to make the country strong to cope with challenges, both internal and external. Noted journalist Agha Masood was of the view that with the swearing in of Donald Trump as US president, India would be toeing the US line and that could create challenges for Pakistan.

He also cited complications arising from Pakistan’s excessive dependence on international donor institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, the institutions that were, in the most subtle of manner, retarding Pakistan’s development.

It could in due time have serious internal repercussions on Pakistan. Dr Tanveer Khalid said Donald Trump’s nationalism did not augur well for the world or for Pakistan. Andrey Fedorov, deputy consul-general of Russia, said that the US was manouvreing to encircle Russia militarily with the aid of former communist states in Eastern Europe which he said could result in an explosive global situation. He said that Russia was strong enough to resist these machinations. In reply to a questioner who thought that Russia was anti-religion or anti-Islam, he reminded him that the largest mosque in Europe was located in Moscow.  Dr Masuma Hasan, chairperson, PIIA, presided over the proceedings.

Posted by Editor.

Coverage and commentary on recent PIIA events is available below:


Filed under Brexit, Courts, Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, Immigration, Iran, Islamophobia, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Trump, United States

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