- Very active indeed
Since Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken office, much can be seen happening on our foreign front. With visits around the world, mainly Arab countries, China and Turkey, PM Imran is set on a path of strengthening ties through diplomacy.
The missing foreign minister during the Nawaz Sharif government and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lagging behind in diplomacy has cost Pakistan much in our international standing. However, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government – a party that is said to have come to power through its effective social media campaigning over the years – is turning the course of Pakistan’s foreign relations through active diplomacy.
Be it the response to US President Donald Trump’s tirade against Pakistan or referring to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a ‘small man occupying big office’, PM Imran is quick to engage with world leaders on Twitter. In a mature way or not, that is a different debate, but it’s good that Pakistani government finally realises the importance of this tool of diplomacy. In fact, the new leadership loves social media to the extent that ministers are often seen posting pictures aimed at getting favourable public opinion. It often hits back at times, inviting criticism from the people calling it mere ‘publicity stunts’. Notwithstanding these social media feuds between government and opposition, PM Imran is definitely breaking stereotypes and envisaging a new era for Pakistan’s foreign relations with his digital diplomacy.
When Abu Dhabi crown prince came to Pakistan, Imran Khan himself received him at Nur Khan airbase and drove him to the PM House. In what is being termed as ‘driving diplomacy’, the prime minister is open to express such gestures not only to enhance Pakistan’s image but also to build strong ties with friendly countries.
With India, PM Imran has adopted a soft tone since he came to power. Not only that, he completely ruled out the possibility of even a cold war between nuclear armed India and Pakistan as it will be complete madness. Instead, he has continued to make repeated offers for a dialogue but they were only met with more hostility from the Indian side. Ignoring this hard stance from India, Imran Khan again went on with his diplomacy and congratulated Indian cricket team and star batsman Virat Kohli for winning the test series against Australia for the first time. This ‘cricket diplomacy’ will go a long way as the skipper-turned-politician is already admired for his struggle as a cricketer and then as a politician. Moreover, the mention of the first ever win by ‘a subcontinent team’ in a test series in Australia shows that he is more inclined towards regionalism, rather globalism.
Looking away from the west, the PTI government seems to want greater regional peace and co-operation. This is evident from his foreign visits, none of which have been to a western country so far. Although his meeting with Trump is on the cards after the US president himself expressed the wish to meet the new leadership in Pakistan, we don’t see much communication with other western states.
Visiting around, inviting economic assistance to avoid getting an IMF bailout and overcoming current account deficit, PM Imran’s endeavours appear clear to the country
Visiting around, inviting economic assistance to avoid getting an IMF bailout and overcoming current account deficit, PM Imran’s endeavours appear clear to the country. Nonetheless, he is repeating the same mistake of not revealing the terms of the Saudi, UAE and Chinese loans. Undoubtedly, it is because of his integrity that the world is again trusting Pakistan for investment, but more transparency is required to build on the public trust that brought him to power in the first place.
Nonetheless, the PTI government’s indecision and U-turns also cannot be ignored. With leaders like Trump and Imran Khan heading such important states, the rationality of the decision makers is now being questioned. With uncertainty over what might come next, the world is always wary of the political developments that can turn the face of the planet.
Having said that, we can only look forward to what the PTI leadership can bring in for the country and whether they are able to deliver on their promises or not. By practicing unconventional methods of diplomacy, the foreign standing of Pakistan will definitely improve and Pakistan will finally be able to get out of the international isolation it has had to face over the years. Inheriting a legacy of a turbulent economy and political chaos, the challenge seems tough for the new government. Managing both domestic and foreign issues is what PM Imran needs to do right.