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Diplomacy of Dubious Dignity

by Newsweek Pakistan

File Photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Khawaja Asif’s grandstanding and rhetoric is not befitting a foreign minister

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif has plugged triumphalism a bit too much after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Islamabad, telling the Senate he has told the Americans to get lost, thus inviting doubt over the “good news” that Pakistan finally has a foreign minister. He knew the Senate was riled, especially in the person of Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, and plied it with choice phrases: “There will only be room for improvement if Washington accepts their defeat, their failures in Afghanistan. They are not ready to accept this.” Pakistan told Tillerson Islamabad did not want Washington’s money or weapons; it wanted only “dignity and treatment of equality” from America.

Pakistan is not exactly faint with joy but Asif’s intent was multi-pronged; one prong being gaining the acceptance of the establishment that wanted exactly what Asif is delivering. Much is made of the “gesture” of having the Army chief sit next to the prime minister while talking to Tillerson, but the world outside will take it in its stride saying the Army runs Pakistan’s foreign policy anyway. The prime minister however was not as aggressive as his foreign minister when, sitting next to General Bajwa, he said, “We are committed to the war against terror. We have produced results. And we are looking forward to moving ahead with the U.S. and building a tremendous relationship.” That’s not what the foreign minister apparently wants.

As if grabbing an antidote after too much America, the prime minister has invited the leader of prayers of Saudi Arabia, Imam-e-Ka’aba, Dr. Saleh Bin Humaid, to attend the opening session of the federal cabinet as a “special guest.” He did this after Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman announced that the kingdom was saying goodbye to its conservative religious worldview. China must be bemused hearing of Afghan President Ghani’s statement in New Delhi that he would join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) only after Pakistan gives Afghanistan a trade corridor to India. China has already apprised Pakistan that it wants India and Afghanistan to join CPEC. But that’s too complicated for Khwaja Asif to handle.

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