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Foreign policy straitjacket

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27.05.2017

ANYWAY you spin it, what happened at the Riyadh summit was troubling if not outright outrageous and the explanation offered for what looked like a snub to Pakistan, or its elected civilian leader, would normally be unacceptable.

Friday morning’s newspapers quoted the Foreign Office spokesman as saying that the Saudi monarch apologised to ‘all’ the Muslim leaders who were scheduled to speak but were unable to do so because of time constraints.

Do you find this explanation plausible? I don’t. These sort of meetings are choreographed and rehearsed for weeks, even months, in advance, with the details worked out with military precision. Only an emergency can throw the schedule off the rails and none was reported here.

Why then will it be business as usual for the government? Well, simply because the way the foreign policy is crafted and implemented leaves the leadership more or less bereft of options. Had the prime minister not been accompanied by the media, the news may not even have become public.

But the media had reported how Mr Sharif had given final touches to his address on the flight to Riyadh and journalists were told they’d be given copies once the text had incorporated any changes the prime minister made while giving the actual speech.

Relatively independent journalists among the prime minister’s media party reported the shock and horror as the Pakistani leader was not called to the podium. In fact, the Saudi-controlled footage/live feed from the summit venue barely showed Prime Minister Nawaz........

© Dawn