Do foreign secretaries have brains?

Can foreign policy of a mid-level economically weak state developed without “Political and Intellectual Leadership”?

Khaled Ahmed September 03, 2011

The answer is yes. They don’t look like having them because of the ban on new thinking placed on them by those who control foreign policy.

If a policy doesn’t work, it is time to change it. That is where diplomats come in handy. They do the lateral thinking, creating wiggle room where there is none, lessening the rasp of the isolationist noose bequeathed by policy stasis.

Because policy is embedded in ideological amber, Pakistani foreign ministers and foreign secretaries don’t write books. The one big exception this year has been Riaz Mohammad Khan (2005-08) who has produced a rare policy critique with his Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict, Extremism and Resistance to Modernity (OUP 2011).

One can recall an exception in ex-foreign secretary Dr Humayun Khan’s critical view of Pakistan’s ‘duplex’ behaviour which usually leaves its ambassadors defending military-induced falsehoods that explode in their faces. He co-authored Diplomatic Divide with G Parthasarathy (Roli Books New Delhi; Distributed by OUP 2003).

Riaz Mohammad Khan who earlier wrote Untying the Afghan knot: negotiating Soviet withdrawal (Duke University Press, 1991), is treading unfamiliar ground by saying “Conflict and Resistance to Modernity” in the title, meaning that he is going to discuss much more than just foreign policy. At a time when Pakistan and al Qaeda are on the same page with their anti-Americanism, and al Qaeda is strangely punishing Pakistan for being pro-American, the topic becomes most relevant.

Can you develop a foreign policy of a mid-level economically prostrate state without “Political and Intellectual Leadership”? (p.351) He writes: “A siege mentality is also manifest in aggressive patriotism and narrow nationalism. The sentiment is especially evident among retired mid-level officials, both military and civilian, and religiously inclined middle-class citizens, who have imbibed suspicion towards the West, hostility towards India and pride in a culture of patriotic self-righteousness typical of middle classes in many societies. This mentality induces further stress in an environment of anger, suspicion, dissension, and delusions in which extremist tendencies breed and thrive.”

On the question of identity: “Pakistani society, which for years has struggled with the questions of its identity, role and destiny in an environment shaped by increasingly intense though amorphous religious influences, Islamisation and jihad policies and weakening institutions of governance. The combination of these factors has induced a resistance to modernisation in education, outlook and behaviour that is fundamental to not just development and progress but survival of a large and complex society such as Pakistan”.

Pakistan’s education under state indoctrination and in the madrassa system: “This dream [education] is pitifully out of sync with present day realities and oblivious of the transformation of the world in the past few centuries in terms of demographics, technological development, expansion of knowledge and phenomenal communications” (p.355).

On extremism: “The Afghan Jihad, policy of Islamisation and proliferation of madrassas in particular gave birth to religious militancy in Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The scale and strength of these phenomena owed to political patronage in one instance and political control in the other. Judging from the viewpoint of most other Muslim countries, the Taliban [in government] were synonymous with ignorance rather than standard-bearers of Islam” (p.300).

Riaz Mohammad Khan strongly rebuts strategic depth as a false doctrine, decries Pakistan’s conditionality of a ‘friendly Kabul’, favours giving a transit route to India, rejects the policy of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and opposes challenging India at the cost of the welfare of the common man in Pakistan.

The hilt of the ‘duplex policy’ dagger that is supposed to be inserted in the back of America is also visible between the shoulder blades of our foreign secretaries.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.


bd | 12 years ago | Reply

@Abdul Rehman Gilani ahh... i am started agreeing with you now. you are taking so much efforts to enlighten me. thank you brother. please please please, remember some more incidences.

Abdul Rehman Gilani | 12 years ago | Reply


Oh, I forgot, what about the 2007 burning of Samjhota Express?

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ