It may be that the Law of Unintended Consequences is coming into play courtesy of the recently revealed — but somewhat threadbare — American policy on Afghanistan which contained criticism of Pakistan. Both Pakistan and China have reacted in their different but complementary ways. For its part China has offered a robust defence of Pakistan with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying that China stands firmly behind its ‘iron-clad friend’ Pakistan, and that some countries — read America — were not giving Pakistan the credit it deserved in the fight against terrorism. Our own foreign minister on his first foreign foray since appointment chimed with his Chinese counterpart and that Pakistan, China and Afghanistan were to be holding a new series of three-way talks later in the year, something of a departure from previous and unsuccessful interventions by all sides. Both parties agreed that there was no military solution.
All this comes after China handed Pakistan something of a backhanded slap on Monday 4th September at the Brics economic summit; in which it joined other Brics members in declaring the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist organisations. Both are banned in Pakistan yet continue to operate and fundraise openly, apparently without let or hindrance. Our FM did not address this directly but has been quoted in Pakistan media prior to his visit to the effect that this should not jeaopardise bilateral ties and that — intriguingly — Pakistan should put its own house in order. Pointers towards a sea-change were obvious in the speech that the FM made at the conclusion of the Pakistan envoys’ conference. He referenced changes in the geopolitical environment and the need to ‘quickly adjust our direction’. Pakistan cannot take its time said the FM, with events moving so quickly.
For the first time in decades a set of opportunities are opening up and the trigger is President Trump. Threats can be parlayed into opportunities and if a new sense of purpose and dynamism coupled with some hard introspection can be nurtured within the Foreign Office then so much the better. There needs to be a national re-branding of a tarnished and distorted image. Seize the time — chances like this are exceedingly rare.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2017.
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