Pak foreign policy begins to get direction
Precious years were wasted. It was just blessing in disguise that the military commanders, fighting to come out of the scathing criticism of its security arrangements chose to sit and ponder as to what went wrong.
Their post-session statement, was two-edged weapon, directed both at masters of home and abroad. Its wordings were clear for the government to understand, and simultaneously Americans also were given clear warning that any repeat of what had happened in the hill station of Mansehra , will be totally intolerable. Soon afterwards a flurry of activity was seen. Ties with India were tried to be straightened.
The foreign secretaries and the foreign ministers meeting in Delhi, may not have achieved anything, but it was enough to break ice and remove the misunderstandings of the Bombay Inferno. Indo-Pak relationship was attempted to be put on rails again after precious years, of deep distrust and decline. The army also tried to mend ways with its US counterparts. General Shuja Pasha’s hurricane visit to Washington, followed by arrivals in Islamabad of American military seniors, did help in removing only part of the multi-faceted problems which caused considerable concern at home. Yet the satisfaction was that improvements were visible though only to the extent, which can be described as a humble start.
The problem is that army has been interfering in affairs outside its domain. Running foreign affairs is one of them. But then blame also goes to the party in power which has done nothing for the country as yet. Its silence on crucial issues, and total incapability to make things move in right direction, created a vacuum which had to be filled. Military took matters in its hands, and began to make the Americans understand that a spade is a spade. Dictations about dos and don’ts were Pakistan’s problems, not of foreigners, but then army also did far too many wrongs, and was in a way responsible for destroying goodwill that had existed in the beginning with Hilary’s first visit to Pakistan in which she looked far too excited and enthusiastic to build up relationship on an enduring basis.
The problems began with the policies of the government to issues visas without even satisfying itself with credentials of who is coming and what has been his background. That far it was alright. But then taking matters in its own hands, was a major mistake from the GHQ. Now American diplomats are issued three months or 90 days visas, which is nothing but a joke. Most diplomats are issued one year visa, like Dawn Shrepel, political affairs officer in Karachi consulate. She had to leave Pakistan, was made deputy secretary with Hilary Clinton and now is on Pakistan desk in the White House. There are a number of US officers here on diplomatic assignments who are on 4-month visa. How can they be expected to deliver. Their job is to build a happy relationship with Pakistanis. Even the Consul General William Martin is hectically involved in achieving that objective. But the foreign office, has restricted their movements. Normal norms are that diplomats inform the foreign office before they want to go to cities other than their posting in Pakistan. This is done on reciprocal basis. But here the foreign office, obviously under pressure from the army after the Davis issue, has bound these diplomats to seeking a formal NOC for their visit to outside Karachi, be it in Sindh interior or Balochistan which falls under their jurisdiction. They are told all the dos and don’ts which is surprising.
In America, no such restriction is placed on Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, or his officers whether in Houston or Los Angeles. They are free to move about in United States and free to mix up with people to convey the Pakistani point of view to their hosts.
President Asif Zardari has taken upon himself the responsibility of handling the delicate foreign policy matters. He has visited China at least half a dozen times, and even sent his prime minister to follow up on what he had achieved. His recent visit to Xinziang province where religious riots took place, reassured the Chinese friends that Islamabad does not support of what happened in the province there. Muslims living there has to live like good citizens of the State and not fight, certainly not look towards neighbouring Pakistan for help or support.
The President and the prime minister have been to England, and then the foreign minister went to China for talks with her counterpart in Beijing. Pakistan military officers also were visiting the Chinese for interaction by their counterparts. China has been a reliable friend of Pakistan since the 60s—almost 50 years and not for once had relented on its support to Pakistan.
Pakistan must build alternate relationship. In fact the prime minister is now going to United States for the General Assembly session and should visit Europe and Japan, South Korea, Malaysia etc to give a new shape to the foreign policy, which should be designed to draw maximum mileage from Asian countries.