News Analysis |
The newly-elected Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is on his first visit to the US to attend the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The visit came at a critical time when tensions between the US and Pakistan are high following the announcement of the new South Asia policy in August.
Abbasi met Vice President Pence, breaking away from a month-long suspension of bilateral visits. This he did much to the chagrin of the opposition who called upon him not to ‘degrade’ the country by meeting Pence. However, the 59-year old, understanding the importance of healthy or at least ‘normal’ Pak-US ties met him and both leaders agreed to continue engaging with each other.
Realizing the importance of healthy Pak-US ties, Abbasi conveyed the US the concerns of the country in a way which exuded the resolve to carry-forward the relationship
Besides meeting world leaders like British Prime Minister Theresa May, Abbasi assiduously presented himself for an interview with the popular anchor person Christiane Amanpour at the CNN and presented a session at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). This was in stark contrast with the last PM Nawaz Sharif who was criticized that his visit to New York UNGA last year had little to no interactions with the American public. In his interview with CNN Abbasi said that ties with the US are decades old and must not be seen only through the lens of Afghanistan. He emphasized that Pakistan is fighting a crucial war against terrorism for itself and the world. He also mentioned to Amanpour that India was and still is a threat to Pakistan’s security.
While reiterating his desire to work with the US against the common menace of terrorism, he said that his country’s nuclear weapons were built as a deterrent against Indian aggression. So the premier was on the front foot against India straight away while he was tactfully diplomatic in his tone for the US. This is because there is a need to reconfigure ties with the US in-line with the country’s national interests and engage with it. As things stand, both countries have to look at conduits to break the ice; the tone was just about ideal.
Not only was Delhi labeled as a real threat, it was also termed as a brutal occupation force in Kashmir, one that is committing war crimes
While giving a talk at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, Abbasi clearly said the Afghan Taliban is an Afghan problem and not that of Pakistan. He firmly said that his country’s interests are paramount, reaffirming the spirit shown by the civilian and military leadership ever since the US has mounted pressure on Pakistan.
Commenting on the role of India he first laughed and said ” zero” but added that he sees no political and military role for India in Kabul. Pakistan has taken exceptions to Trump’s request to Delhi of playing a lead role in Afghanistan; Abbasi conveyed the very sentiments to the educated US audience.
While giving a talk at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, Abbasi clearly said the Afghan Taliban is an Afghan problem and not that of Pakistan
Abbasi may not have manifested eloquence while delivering his speech at the UN, but he uttered what was needed. While many excepted him to spend more time on Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts he clearly enunciated Islamabad’s concerns regarding India. Not only was Delhi labeled as a real threat, it was also termed as a brutal occupation force in Kashmir, one that is committing war crimes. Abbasi called upon the UN to investigate Indian atrocities in Kashmir and ensure that the world body’s resolutions are implemented.
Abbasi certainly delved on the Afghan conundrum, saying that the country must not be scapegoated for the military and political failures in Afghanistan. The PM spoke with a high-pitch tone against India; the content was stronger and covered everything, from Kashmir to state-sponsored to aggression on the Line of Control. Abbasi said that India must not take Pakistan’s restraint as a sign of weakness as it would respond to inimical activities with force.
This is because there is a need to reconfigure ties with the US in-line with the country’s national interests and engage with it. As things stand, both countries have to look at conduits to break the ice; the tone was just about ideal
Realizing the importance of healthy Pak-US ties, Abbasi conveyed the US the concerns of the country in a way which exuded the resolve to carry-forward the relationship. However, given that the Indian narrative on Kashmir and terrorism is increasing its buyers, Abbasi vociferously dished out the country’s narrative on both issues.
In sum, Abbasi ticked the right boxes and conveyed the right messages at the right time. Pakistan has shown resolve to an extent that the US is beginning to arrest the fraying relationship hence Abbasi deftly touched upon issues with the US. It was an impressive debut.