PM in Bishkek

Imran could do well to learn that international diplomacy is often very transactional

Editorial June 15, 2019

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled his ambitious and forward-looking vision for a dynamic and prosperous South Asia which shifts from confrontation to cooperation. He called for advancing peaceful co-existence at the regional and international levels, promoting stability, setting up an SCO Fund and an SCO Development Bank to catalyse trans-regional development, apart from synergising various regional connectivity initiatives, including an SCO Culture and Tourism Corridor.

For PM Imran, the SCO has helped open up the region to a post-Cold War reality and one which promises potential for not only trade but also human development of the region. But with the region still mired in a number of conflicts, with Pakistan at the centre of the biggest of them, PM Imran is also hoping that the SCO will have enough clout to help mediate a way out. This much he has said in an interview where he hoped that Russia would help mediate in the conflict with India while the SCO platform would also afford the opportunity for a thaw in ties with New Delhi. Further, SCO countries, including Russia and China, have at various stages attempted to mediate between the warring factions in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, the PM tried to make a strong case for investment in Pakistan. But for all his good intentions, it remains to be seen how the rest of the SCO members react. Whether they will neglect his diplomatic gaffe in the opening session of the summit, and pay more attention to his words, and even intent. That SCO has afforded a platform for undistracted interaction with China and other member countries, particularly Russia. Having already been advised that being a prime minister requires ‘learning on the job’, Imran could do well to learn that international diplomacy is often very transactional. And if he has hopes that the other countries are actually paying attention to what he is saying, he must bring something to the table which is of interest to them.

The same principle applies when it comes to attracting foreign investment in Pakistan

Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2019.

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