Coarse texture of Pakistani diplomacy
International diplomacy is a visible tool of governance – the long-term direction and intents are usually invisible and masked in palatable generalities to be deciphered over time.
However, the phraseology and semantics are a giveaway of the texture, efficacy, and drgree of maturity of the diplomacy deployed. Essentially, diplomacy seeks to aid the economic development of a nation, safeguard the territorial integrity, and protect the ideological framework of a nation – herein, signs of economic struggles, lawlessness and societal self-combustion in Pakistan, are reflective of the quality of Pakistani diplomacy deployed in the last 69 years.
The recent race and ongoing pitch by both India and Pakistan for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), is a personification of the two distinct tonalities and approaches. That such an endorsement and support for membership to the 48 country club will entail heavy-duty hard-sell, courting and drumming support is inevitable.
So to that extent, the globe-trotting and flying miles by the Indian establishment and the Pakistani counterparts is kosher diplomacy. The size of the prize for India is the invaluable access to superior Nuclear technology and know-how, besides the utilisation of the same for meeting the burgeoning energy requirements (currently only 2 percent of India’s power generation is Nuclear-based) and entering the lucrative global highway of Nuclear trade.
Therefore, for an unbiased evaluation (for a country like China, geo-political considerations would be paramount) of India’s credentials for NSG membership – track record of a responsible conduct, safety infrastructure, and peaceful outlook as a nation is critical, the same behavioural criterion would be applicable to Pakistan as well.
China’s ulterior motive in check-mating India aside, track record is where the cookie crumbles for Pakistan and the case strengthens for India’s entry. India has imposed a disciplined self-imposed moratorium on Nuclear tests since May 1998, it is now a signatory to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) – whereas, Pakistan has had the infamy of the local hero Dr. AQ Khan (who helped conduct Chagai I and II) get caught proliferating Nuclear blueprints to the “No-Go” nations like North Korea and Libya. Murmurs of official connivance of AQ Khan and the Pakistani establishment in the act has done the rounds.
Then, there is the perennial fear of the Pakistani nukes landing in the wrong hands (or, “Non-State actors” as the Pakistanis refer to their erstwhile/current protégés). Last but not the least, is the pacifist and “Non-Military” outlook of the Indian Nuclear narrative, whereas the Pakistani diplomacy is regularly peppered by inputs from the Rawalpindi Army Head Quarters, where the Generals massage the foreign policy from a Military and India-competitive prism, hence, are intrinsically more hawkish in their demeanour.
Unsurprisingly, India’s tone in these times is more nuanced and mature, as reflected in the comment from the External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj whose response about India’s stand on Pakistan’s bid for NSG was a sober, “India won't protest entry of any nation in NSG, would want application be considered based on merits” – preferring to word it beyond the hyphenated Indo-Pak dimension, whilst, still diplomatically making an adroit point on Pakistan with the clever reference to “merits”.
On the other hand, Pakistani Prime Minister’s advisor on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz typified Pakistani fixation with India in a shocking flourish, “We have been making successful efforts against India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership”.
The brazen admission of India-centricity by Pakistan, even during the preparatory stage of homework for filling NSG application was openly revealed by Sartaj Aziz as he said, “Our strategy was to apply after India did, after which we would have immediately followed. We have had our application in an advanced state of readiness for the past three months for this purpose”.
The incredulity and duplicity of the Pakistani stand were exemplified, when in the same meeting as Sartaj Aziz was expounding on Pakistan’s NSG bid, reassured the Pakistani lawmakers that Pakistan was not being internationally isolated and that it would continue with its policy of “non-interference in the affairs of other countries”!
Meanwhile, the Chinese who are silently doing the bidding for their “all-weather friend” Pakistan, is putting up a more chiseled diplomatic spin on their obvious intransigence towards the Indian application to NSG, while, supposedly doing a , “constructive role” in furthering the NSG agenda (given the US backing and now even the Russian support, China has mellowed its earlier language).
Even with other neighbours like Iran and Afghanistan with whom Pakistan is facing a rocky relationship owing to its constant interference and meddling – the spiel of “brother muslim nation” is losing its emotional and rationale appeal.
Already Ashraf Ghani is fuming at Pakistan’s consistent harbouring of elements inimical to Afghan peace with a terse, “Pakistan still remains a venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us messages of war”, while the recent bonhomie of the Indo-Iranian equation has similarly irked Islamabad, however Pakistan still insists on the rote and regressive approach of religious affinity to today’s day and age to build bridges with both Iran and Afghanistan.
That Pakistan’s tryst with religion is eating into its vitals as a nation is ignored and it still punts on religiosity as a diplomatic axis to bail them out, as Sartaj Aziz commented, when asked about the declining perceptions of Pakistan in the other neighbouring countries, he waxed about the “historic and religious” relations with Muslim countries! This, when both Iran and Afghanistan have solidified the strategic relationship with Delhi, in consonance with the times, challenges, and solutions that be.
The former Pakistan ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani captured the reality succinctly when he told the Pakistani establishment to take “responsibilities for failed policies” and stop “looking for scapegoats to divert attention”. Building bluntly on the failed Pakistani diplomacy he stated, “I did not make the AQ Khan network, support the Taliban as they killed US soldiers in Afghanistan or allow UN designated terrorist groups to function openly”.
Pakistan’s difficulty in digesting the sharp US tilt in favour of India is reflected in its inability to come to terms with the American scepticism of the Pakistani establishment with the continuing drone saga, F-16 impasse, and now the NSG nudge in Delhi’s direction. Even on this Hussain Haqqani captured the Pakistani discomfort by noting, “Pakistan’s difficulties in the US were the result of years of supporting 'jihadis' and making excuses that are having less and less effect on Americans.
Moreover, Pakistan’s dependence on US aid made it susceptible to changes in the US national mood and attitude”. Pakistan is mired in dangerous intrigues emanating from the ghosts of its flawed past, Rawalpindi-versus-Islamabad turf wars and the empty braggadocio that is increasingly seeing the country get questioned, isolated, relegated to the unfortunate status of a minion state of the dragon, like North Korea.
Lt General Bhopinder Singh (Retd)is Former Lt Governor of Puducherry, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Views expressed are strictly personal.