Reviewing foreign policy

Aug 25, 2017
Senate has rightly called for a review of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Though let us hope that the aggressive tone of some of the most prominent senators was for posturing purposes only. For devising and reviewing a policy that guarantees our interests in the best possible manner is the stuff of cold-blooded rationality.
In the past few years, the country has faced a number of diplomatic failures, perhaps due to lack of a Foreign Minister (FM). We finally have an FM now, but whether or not the foreign policy under his ministership will improve is yet to be seen. If US President Donald Trump’s latest outburst against Pakistan and accusations of ‘harbouring’ terrorists is anything to go by, our foreign policy is definitely in need of reform.
Foreign policy is better designed as a result of extensive debate in the Parliament and in consultation with the ministries concerned. And once it has been designed, all executive agencies concerned including the Armed forces ought to follow the roadmap. Pakistan’s case has been slightly different up till now. Lack of coordination between political and military establishment has often led to situations where our foreign policy has faced failures over the years.
Some senators have criticised US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale’s meeting with Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa and said that the envoy should instead have held talks with the Prime Minister or the FM. It is good that Pakistan’s parliamentarians are asking the right questions. Such questions have on occasions been asked earlier as well. But the need of the hour is to move towards a situation where there won’t be a need for such concerns anymore. And that situation will come about once a foreign policy has been drafted with complete ownership of the Parliament and implemented through various ministries concerned.
Remarks by some parliamentarians suggesting that Pakistan should take an aggressive position to deal with US allegations are rather irresponsible. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, who is otherwise known to be a voice for sanity, also went on to say that “if Americans want to make Pakistan a graveyard for their soldiers,
let them do it.”
Political leaders should know that foreign policies are not designed on the basis of public sentiment alone. Ground realities cannot be ignored before taking a position — and restraint should be practiced as far as possible. Adopting an aggressive approach in response to Trump’s allegations will not be the right thing to do.
Pakistan should reform its foreign policy and make efforts through proper lobbying to effectively highlight the country’s role in fight against terror. The gains made in the ongoing anti-terror operations should also be shared with the world. Moreover, it is time the government started taking Parliament into confidence over foreign policy matters.
Daily Times, August 25, 2017

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