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Imran Khan Government: Engaging the world in 120 days?

70 227 601
05.01.2019

Moeed Pirzada |

While Imran Khan’s government showed a robust activity on all fronts, be it the economy, accountability or clean and green Pakistan; nothing matches the speed through which it positively moved inside the complex foreign policy arena.

In less than four months in office, Khan’s hyperactive government successfully created image of a Pakistan that is moving out of its closet and is engaging the world. During this short period, Pakistan’s new prime minister twice visited Saudi Arabia and UAE, was received warmly in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, (where the septuagenarian first lady created headlines by holding his hands in an excitement reminiscent of teenage style selfies) had offered mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia in troubled Yemen and after making unsuccessful overtures to engage Modi’s Hindutva regime in India, it put New Delhi on defensive through its smart initiative on Kartarpur border opening in Punjab.

This robust diplomacy also provided a much needed financial leverage – a breathing space – to an Islamabad struggling under a severe balance of payment crisis. Saudi Arabia and UAE agreed to place $6 billion in Pakistan’s state bank to help with its balance of payments and made commitments for large deferred oil payments. Chinese made substantial commitments, which Islamabad and Beijing have declined to comment upon – apparently under Middle Kingdom’s traditional policy of understatement.

Mr. Khalilzad, a staunch critic of Pakistan, had always been seen as pro-India but in the new changed circumstances has so far kept himself away from the mantras of Delhi.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Khan’s foreign minister (who earlier served as FM in the PPP government between 2008-11) has shuttled, right from August, between Islamabad, Kabul and Washington creating the receptive environment in which President Trump ended up asking Pakistan’s help in a dialogue with Afghan Taliban – that had become stuck after initial meetings with Alice Wells in Doha. In the third week of December, Shah Mehmood Qureshi embarked on a three-day trip of four countries. The list could not have been more impressive: From Kabul, he landed in Tehran, then was found shaking hands in Beijing and emerging from the shadows of Great Wall he was heading towards Putin’s Kremlin in Moscow.

Read more: 100 days of PTI: Smoothening the way

Pakistani foreign minister was briefing his counterparts on the direct talks between the U.S. and Afghan Taliban – an initiative his government was now actively facilitating. Much has been made of President Trump’s letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in the beginning of November, in which he had requested Pakistan to help find a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan, but in reality, the process was ongoing much before that –with active support from Pakistan’s military and intelligence. In the third week of December 2018 history had moved full circle. After wasting almost 21 years, the United States was once again sitting with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the same table trying to find a way forward through the Afghan Taliban.

India, Pakistan’s eastern neighbour, that had invested massively in post 9/11 Afghanistan to entrench itself in the west of Pakistan was absent – something that may not have been noticed by most Pakistanis or those in the west but something that is being viewed with grave concern in the dusty offices of South Block. Knives and arguments are being sharpened for Zalmay Khalilzad, Trump’s envoy for the region, who will visit New Delhi to attend Raisina Dialogue in January. Mr. Khalilzad, a staunch critic of Pakistan, had always been seen as pro-India but in the new changed circumstances has so far kept himself away from the mantras of Delhi. In his recent trips to the region, India was ignored and the dialogue with the Taliban has proceeded without an active or visible consultation with the hawks in Delhi.

India has been a staunch supporter of continued U.S.........

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