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22 December 2010

Of diplomacy and glacier conks

Roedad Khan perhaps has burnt himself out, at least proverbially. His passion remains stuck with stark disappointments as he yearns to see the ‘Quaid’s’ dreams achieved. Hamid Mir, Ansar Abbasi, Rauf Klasra, Dr Shahid, Rahimullah Yousafzai, Fatima Bhutto, Gen Qadir Baloch, Dr AQ Khan and many others would soon be hunchbacks under the heap of scandals as they expose massive corruption, nepotism and state conspiracies, to the verge of proving the gluttons as committing acts of treason. However, our worthy federation remains soaked in their unholy hobbies on the trajectory of their ill-founded domains. Instead of fishing for clues for recovery from public opinion through the media, their genius is consumed by the devices to go more lethal and ambitious in wicked pursuits.

In the mean time, our judiciary has been inundated with the burden of their responsibility to often act unilaterally but brilliantly when state’s institutions’ functional credibility is not characterised by their service to the people but by self-glorifying their misdeeds. Where such comparison is within all the ‘corrupts’ in competition, the magnitude and tainted colossus of these monsters become immeasurable. It would be absolutely fair to exclude the army from this ominous bracket.

Federation functionaries have the tongue in their cheeks to clamor that democracy is threatened in Pakistan. Wikileaks has thoroughly exposed them as if they are hanging by a cliff and seeking rescue from the external collaborators. The dramatic irony in the whole issue is that the ‘cliff’ is of their own making. The coalition government, thoroughly vulnerable to blackmail by its allies, has devised a nefarious strategy to gobble up and let others gobble up too. They, amidst the volleys of mutual barbs, cling to each other because they are desperately in need of a continuing empire to mop up their sins.

Once this humbug goes on, our foreign policy brains have been lax wittingly and unobtrusively from public eyes on several crucial issues of international relations, which crystallise through the conduct of (inapt) diplomacy, ‘as a policy instrument possibly in association with other instruments such as economic or military force to enable an international actor to achieve its objectives’. Thanks to globalisation, we are not only an international actor but the geo-strategic location endows us with tremendous significance. If the diplomacy wizards do recognise our inherent vitality, one thing is sure that the recognition has not been supplemented with adequate exterior manoeuvres. Our stance is mercurial and not commensurate to the challenges. We tend to buckle under the weight of national and international issues to keep ourselves well aligned with the wishes of external actors who would like to push us to the pitfall of erroneous decisions when our indigenous failings are in no dearth.

Our government attempts to project its weight by ridiculing other pillars of the state despite knowing that our deeds or misdeeds are picked up by the international community faster than we do, being cast in a crystal. When the army asserts that we would defend our borders employing all means available, certainly it is not negating the spirit of diplomacy and the freedom of dialogues option with our eastern rival. Rather it means reinforcing the dialogue diplomacy instead with military support in tandem to lend our negotiations a position of advantage. No one else but our ruling party spokesperson spew out a firm denial, that these are not government views, at considerable detriment to the conduct of successful diplomacy.

Similarly our president calling Kashmiri freedom fighters terrorists and offering withdrawal from Siachin made our adversary’s stance more stubborn. Did he know the extent of damage he inflicted on our foreign policy, the strategic implications for India and advantages that accrue to Pakistan when we keep the bull locked by the horns in Siachin with perhaps much less comparative, though considerable, cost in men and material? True that diplomacy does not recognise emotions, but his statement was the antithesis to our valiant men’s and officers’ sacrifices, literally crouching like Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s legendary ‘shaheens’ (eagles), gasping for each breath, yet resolutely perched on the rocks above 20,000 feet.

On the contrary, India has not budged an inch from its reticence beyond its occasional fascinating colloquialism over Kashmir as well as Sir Creek. Instead it has launched a well-orchestrated effort to encircle and isolate us from Afghanistan, the West, Russia, China, East Asia and the Middle East as well. Recognition of India’s role in Afghanistan by the US, the European Union and Russia is a direct setback to the conduct of our foreign policy. Absence of a flurry of publicised diplomacy offensives usually means all quiet on this front to suggest that our pundits are gripped by inertia or inert dreams. Compromises are not welcome as they would lead us to demolishing our own strong geo-political pivots. I hope we are clear about the hypothesis that India needs peace more than us.

India has secured a base in Tajikistan and is doing thriving business in Kazakhstan in the energy sector despite the presence of a very tough and competitive rival, China. Ajay Patnaik rightly boasts, “Two landmarks signified India’s changing approach. In November 2003 India agreed to renovate and upgrade the Ayni air base in Tajikistan. In August 2005 Indian state-owned company ONGC combined with Mittal Industrial Group to form ONGC Mittal Energy Limited (OMEL) to acquire energy assets in Kazakhstan.” What laurels have we achieved despite our territorial contiguity with Central Asia? Potential of the land mass of Pakistan as a bridge to satiate the Indian energy-thirsty but booming economy remains a precious bargain chip during negotiations with India.

Transit trade relaxation from Afghanistan to India and the TAPI gas pipe line agreement are some ill-thought moves that have left us empty-handed when we had an alternative to flaunt the Gwadar outlet for the sake of diplomacy. With our hind view over the quality of Indian diplomacy that is consistent and vibrant, at some point in time, we would again be cornered by her as on Afghanistan, and now for Siachin Glacier where India has picked up its ‘environmental degradation’ card to force pull-out of our forces on us. It also shows how India manipulates universal trends to its advantage.

On the contrary, our foreign office’s apathy of not launching a diplomatic blitz for an effective resolution to the mother-of-all disputes (Kashmir) is intriguing. Our moral ascendancy has been rendered redundant at the international level because poor and reluctant campaigning has resulted in our faltered stance. India successfully invaded Junagadh, Goa, Hyderabad, Kashmir and clipped our wing to the East in 1971. Through effective diplomacy it has not only managed to wipe off its sins of aggression but has become a standard bearer of the largest democracy in the world.

The bottom line of the debate is not that diplomatic doors should be shut but made more responsive with a cutting edge. An edge not reactionary but preemptive, far-sighted and able to engage our adversary on the forward foot. As the word ‘Conk’ means a blow to the head, one would implore the rulers to save us from such deadly blows. Conversely ‘conk’ also means fungus growth on decaying wood. One prays we are not destined to such doom.

By Dr.Muhammad Aslam Khan Niazi, Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The writer is a retired brigadier and a Phd in International Relations, Email: makni49@hotmail.com , Courtesy :http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=21453&Cat=9