Ambassador Riaz Khokhar is a retired Pakistani diplomat who served as the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan from June 2002 to February 2005. Mr. Riaz Khokhar also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to India (1992–1997), the United States (1997–1999) and China (1999–2002) before leading the top post of foreign ministry as Foreign Secretary of Pakistan. GVS sat with Ambassador Riaz Khokhar for an interview to know his vision for Pakistan in 2030.
GVS: Sir, I would like to know your big idea and your vision for the next 10 years in terms of Foreign Policy for Pakistan?
Ambassador Riaz Khokhar: Short introductory remarks to begin with because you know when you talk about the vision for 10 years it is a very long period for a country like Pakistan. I don’t want to say anything outrageous but I want to say two or three things, which are very critical with regards to the next 10 years for Pakistan.
The first thing I would like to say is that our founding fathers (Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Sir Allama Iqbal), owe gratitude from this nation to these two people who had the vision and for the great effort that was put in by the Quaid e Azam to create Pakistan. That is point number one that I wanted to make.
I have lived in India for 10 years, and I would like to thank the Almighty for creating this country. Many people in this country make this mistake by saying that Nehru, Gandhi and Indira Gandhi were good people. What I want to emphasize is that according to an ultimate analysis they are all the same. The concept of a secular India is a big fraud, and what is happening in India today shows us its true colors. This is the real Indian society. In India today, their 83% population is Hindu, and they firmly believe in the current Prime Minister, who is criminally minded, support his atrocious ideological approach to the country.
Thirdly, I would like to say that people should be aware of how our country was created; millions of people sacrificed their lives. The fourth point I want to make is that the common man has toiled, suffered but still has love for this country, sadly, I can’t say the same about the elite. Unfortunately, the elite has greatly benefited from the creation of Pakistan but their contribution to the country has not been what was expected of them.
Now these are just the introductory remarks.
Now we come to the foreign policy aspect. Right from its creation, Pakistan has faced serious problems relating to its security, integrity, sovereignty, and economic prosperity. Pakistan has two major foreign policy problems that are a threat to the fundamental security of the country. Firstly, India, who is Pakistan’s number one, number two, and number three enemy, please don’t forget this. Afghanistan is a brotherly country, but sadly they are hostile and have a certain level of friendship and partnership with India, which is inimical to Pakistan.
Now, foreign policy is not something that exists in the air. Foreign Policy is directly related to the internal policies of a country or the approach or concepts that we have concerning our internal situation. There is a symbiotic relationship between internal developments, events, and external issues. Foreign policy is a process, not a single shot.
Now, we come to the strategic aspects. As I mentioned, the world is changing very rapidly, the international order is in a flux, and it is not clear what direction it is likely to take. For the globe, the most critical, most important, and the most fundamental relationship is between the United States and China. Their relationship will determine the future of the remaining 21st century.
This relationship suffered extensively during the presidency of Donald Trump, and the rest of the world should be thankful to the people of the United States for having rejected him because he has caused much disturbance in the global order. He has not made any distinctions between friends and foes and allies and non-allies. He has been extremely rude, arrogant, and dismissive about relationships. Two years ago, he gave a message on new years about Pakistan, so I don’t want to say more than that, now this critical relationship is going to be fundamental.
Today, India and the United States are in a deep strategic embrace, which we have to watch very carefully. We have extremely good relations with China. China, I would say, is a strategic friend and an ally. It has been a dependable friend for decades, our relationship with China has greatly helped Pakistan. One of the important reasons is that the foundation of this relationship relates to outstanding people on both sides, the Chinese side has Chairman Mao, and every subsequent Chinese leader has contributed to this relationship. Today you see CPEC, it is the vision of the leadership on both sides. Similarly, on Pakistan’s side President Ayub, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and all other leaders contributed. Our whole effort should be to maintain excellent, friendly, and cooperative relations with China. We should also be hopeful for a good friendly relationship with the United States.
Now, I will not call it a balancing act but the critical point is that we should see our relationship from the perspective of our national interest. Basically, Foreign policy should serve your own national interest. People only think of national interest in the context of security, which means how many tanks you or how many bombs you have, not how many brains you have. National security and national interest are very comprehensive. The function of the state is to ensure the welfare of its people. The welfare of the country has many aspects; it is not only based on the military point of view.
The next point I want to make is that Pakistan faces some immensely serious problems. First is the population explosion. I don’t know the rate of population growth if it is 2.5 or 2.6 but governments rely on statistics, this is a very serious problem for Pakistan. We are growing, at least in my opinion at a frightening rate. Secondly there are very serious environmental issues, such as climate change. The third important point, water shortage. Pakistan is considered among the few countries that will be facing critical water shortage issues.
Now, what is happening in Pakistan today? Is anybody happy? The point I am trying to make is to look at the state of governance in the country; look at the roles that politicians have played over the last few years. Unfortunately, as you know Pakistan was divided in 1971; we were separated from our Bengali brothers. It was basically because of certain internal issues between West Pakistan and East Pakistan, and the difference of opinion between the politicians. India took advantage of the situation and played a very critical but dirty role in performing surgery on Pakistan, you must not forget that. What I am trying to say is how do we deal with the situation.
I am 79 years old and you talk about a decade, so alright let’s look at a decade. I want to see Pakistan as a strong, stable, democratic, and economically vibrant country in which the greatest emphasis is given to the welfare of the poor of this country.
What do the people of Pakistan want basically? Security and welfare, which means health, education, and the prospect of jobs, how do you do this? I don’t want to go into details but this country needs to focus on three elements. Good education, a greater emphasis should be placed on science and technology and we should think in terms of an eco-technological economic future.
The Almighty has been extremely kind in giving us an abundance of natural resources; we have water, which is natural, which comes from the mountaineous rivers of Pakistan. This country has great potential for agriculture; it is my own judgement that the agriculture sector could give this country a great future.
Then as I said, we need to focus on the eco-technological aspects of our economy. We have lots of talent, we have a large population of young people, and the future of this country really depends on our youth. What are the essential requirements? Good, honest, incorruptible, sincere, committed, leadership and that is the problem this country is facing today.
Look at the political situation in the country today, I don’t want to elaborate but they are not even on speaking terms. There is a movement going on, which we don’t know what shape its going to take but as I said foreign policy can only be successful, and can only serve the interest of the country provided there is stability, and there is solid economic progress.
We are militarily strong, we can deal with our problems, we are a nuclear power but there are a lot of examples in history that suggest otherwise and one of the most important examples is that of the Soviet Union. It was the second most powerful country in the world in 1990. Thirty thousand nuclear weapons, a huge country with a huge economy and army, but it collapsed because of few reasons.
One it was not politically cohesive. Number two it became economically weak and third point it did not have the sense of being part of a Union. It was a very large country, there were almost nine Muslim republics, and so the country was held by force. No country can survive if it is held by force please keep that in mind.
Final point I want to make is with regard to the elements that create real problems. Number one; there should be no sense of alienation and economic deprivation. Sense of alienation is political and economic deprivation is relating to the sense that people are not looked after, and they are being neglected. When these two things combine, one is political and the other is economic, it can create a storm and become a critical political situation similar to the one in 1971. People in East Pakistan felt they were economically deprieved and that politicians of West Pakistan had not respected the democratic process.
Finally, we come to strategic issues. Our most important strategic problem is India, how do we deal with them? When I said that people in this country have a terrible misconception that congress was good, Gandhi and Nehru were good and Indira Gandhi was a good person. They should not forget that it was Gandhi and Nehru who had actually rejected the British plan to create two independent states, and it was Nehru who created the situation and he denied the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination. Although, he took the matter to the United Nations but he was the one, who lied not only to the people of Kashmir, but also to the people of India and to the International Community and all the wars that took place between India and Pakistan were during his time. Mrs Gandhi at least what one knows that she was the happiest person when Pakistan was cut into two pieces.
So we should not have this misunderstanding that they were good people compared to the current leadership. They were bad but this fellow is the worst. So we should not have any expectations from a person like Modi, he will create all kinds of situations to undermine Pakistan. They have already brought a hybrid war to Pakistan. In 2016, we met this man Mr. Doval and he said that if Pakistan does not behave like a good neighbour then we will carry the war to Pakistan and that is what they have done.
The recent discovery of how India has created this huge web of media manipulation to create propaganda against Pakistan, over the last 15 years. It used NGOs, the media, the newspapers, and all kinds of fake organisations, to generate fake news against Pakistan. So, this is going to continue and Pakistan is going to face a very critical relationship with India. I mean we have worked for good relations with India but it wasn’t reciprocated in the same way, we tried for 70 years. The problem with India is that it does not want to fundamentally accept the creation of Pakistan. Hence, they are committed to undermining Pakistan.
My point is that a critical relation for Pakistan is the relationship we have with China. In regard to the Middle East, we should have a good relationship with them and our Muslim neighbors. Recently, we had some problems but I am sure with clarity, wisdom and the right approach we can resolve our misunderstandings. In the future, the most critical will be a country’s economic strength and in order to achieve that we should try to develop economic relations and cooperation with as many countries as possible.
A country is only truly sovereign, truly independent if it is economically strong and self-sustainable but if you are running around with a begging bowl asking country A, B, C or D or depending on the international institutions for your survival then quite frankly you are not a free, sovereign and an independent country.
Personally, I wish to see a strong, stable, democratic, progressive, economically very very strong, very viable country and of course naturally and militarily strong enough to give any enemy and in particular India, ill knows that it will greet for centuries, so that is the that is my final comment.
GVS: Thankyou so much for your time sir!
Ambassador Riaz Khokhar: You’re Welcome.
The interview transcript with Ambassador Riaz Khokhar has been edited as per GVS policy.