PM Khan’s UNGA visit darkened by three shadows
As Prime Minister Imran Khan lands in the US for the UN’s General Assembly Session, his strategic thinking is marked by clarity and conviction, and with a full understanding that Pakistan’s economic and social development requires stability and peace at home and in the region. However, steps in this direction have been impeded vastly by three recent developments.
Firstly, Indian actions in Kashmir have created an explosive situation threatening peace and security with broad ramifications for the region as a whole. Pakistan has opted for diplomacy, for now, to contain and reverse the consequences of India flooding the valley with troops, imposing a communications blackout, and abrogating the region’s special legal status on Aug. 5th.
The decision to bring the Kashmir situation to the fore at the UN warrants the Prime Minister’s personal participation in the UNGA. It is a tall order, sadly so in these times, to uphold the principles of the UN Charter and values of humanity, when political, strategic and economic expedients seem to dictate positions and the international community has fallen victim to a realist and power-centered pattern of thought and action.
Hyper-nationalism and a propensity to acquiesce to the age-old dictum, ‘might is right,’ has undermined the fundamentals of the international system as envisaged by the UN. A reminder to the world, to ponder the consequences of appeasing aggression notably against the Kashmiris, is timely.
Khan is also expected to meet President Trump and discuss the possibility of America’s role in reversing India’s abrogation of Kashmir’s special status.
Trump understands that the de-escalation of India-Pakistan tensions is necessary and can only be predicated on easing the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir. The fact that Prime Minister Modi will also be in New York, lends to the impression that Trump may have a personal opportunity to facilitate some sort of process between Pakistan and India.
Seeking the UN’s help in getting a humanitarian corridor established to provide relief and assistance to Kashmiris under curfew could be a tangible contribution by the world body.
Khan will be meeting other world leaders as well and will have extensive interaction with the US think tanks and media. The highlight of the visit will be his address to the UNGA. Seeking the UN’s help in getting a humanitarian corridor established to provide relief and assistance to Kashmiris under curfew could be a tangible contribution by the world body. The UN could also consider encouraging and defining a framework for the avoidance of war between Pakistan and India. If major powers such as the US, Russia, and China were to support such an initiative, it could be a sound contribution to the maintenance of regional peace and security.
Secondly, the abrupt hiatus in the US-Afghan Taliban peace process has been accompanied by an intensification of violence in Afghanistan. It is well recognized that there is no military solution to the problems of Afghanistan. The US had, during the past year, come around to realizing this reality and recognized the Afghan Taliban as a principal Afghan party.
Now, Pakistan has urged all sides to resume the peace process. President Trump has himself been a major proponent of a political solution, and Khan will have a good opportunity to get his views and offer Pakistan’s continued efforts to facilitate an Afghan peace process. It is to be hoped that the international community as a whole will lend its full weight for a resumption of the political process for durable peace in Afghanistan.
Recently, the trilateral ministerial meeting between the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan in Islamabad underscored the need for the three to pool their efforts in for building infrastructure and undertaking collaborative projects for the economic development of Afghanistan.
This three-way process could be expanded and made open to multilateral cooperation with the support of the US, Russia and the EU. Pakistan, along with China, continues to make constructive contributions toward the stability, peace, and development of Afghanistan.
Thirdly, the attack on two Saudi oil installations has upped tensions in the region. The threat of a cycle of escalation of tensions leading to an outbreak of open hostilities is a matter of grave concern. Pakistan is part of the greater Middle East and tensions in the Gulf are a matter of direct concern to Pakistan, for which Prime Minister Khan is well placed to play a conciliatory role. Consultations in New York with world leaders on the Gulf situation could lead to some positive initiatives for enabling all sides to walk away from the brink.
Admittedly, the UNGA this year meets to deliberate global issues in a charged and polarized international environment. Multilateralism is under assault and the pillars of the UN-based international system have started to fold. Earnest efforts must now be made to renew faith in UN charter principles and in multilateral cooperation. Unilateralism and power politics must not be allowed to dictate the shape of the globe in the decades to come.
*Salman Bashir is a Pakistani diplomat who served as Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and as High Commissioner of Pakistan to India.