Diplomatic debacle.


Byline: Zahid Hussain

THE latest foreign policy debacle in the shape of Pakistan's last-minute decision to pull out of the Kuala Lumpur Summit illustrates Imran Khan's Trumpian-style of dealing with highly sensitive policy issues. It is decision-making driven by whims rather than reason.

While it was unwise to take the decision to attend the summit without deliberating the pros and cons, even worse was backing out of the commitment under pressure from another county. The entire episode reflects a new low in our diplomacy. It happens when institutional processes are set aside to accommodate the quirks of an individual. It is a voodoo foreign policy that has caused us loss of credibility among friendly countries. Yet we are blind to this.

Notwithstanding the Foreign Office claiming otherwise, there is a ring of truth to what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said about Saudi pressure being the reason for Pakistan's abrupt withdrawal. The prime minister's sudden dash to Riyadh, followed by the announcement of the cancellation of his visit leaves nothing to conjecture. What could be more humiliating for a sovereign nation than to accept the dictates of another country? It has been a loss of face from all sides.

No precedent in recent history comes to mind where Pakistan has allowed some other country to take a decision on its foreign policy imperatives and how to conduct its relations with other states. Despite pressure, Pakistan had previously maintained a balance in its relations with countries hostile to one another. We have kept ourselves out of the civil war in the Middle East and declined to send troops to help Saudi forces in Yemen while withstanding intense pressure from Riyadh. So what has happened now?

A major problem with the PTI government is its non-serious approach to critical foreign policy issues.

Saudi Arabia may have its own reasons to oppose the KL Summit but it could not prevent other countries from participating. Surely, the Saudis have strong leverage over Pakistan because of our increasing financial reliance on the kingdom, and yet we have weathered similar pressure in the past and managed to pursue an independent policy. In fact, Imran Khan should have thought through all aspects before committing himself to attending the conference in the first place.

Interestingly, the agenda of the conference was discussed in the prime minister's meeting with the Turkish president and the Malaysian prime minister on the sidelines...

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