Whither nuanced diplomacy?


When all else fails between warring states, it is the diplomats that are supposed to save the day for them. Pakistan’s diplomatic corps led by the able Shah Mehmood Qureshi had the country wondering by their naïve reaction to the recent OIC meeting in Abu Dhabi.

An emotionally charged speech by Qureshi at the joint session of the parliament and the subsequent resolution meant that everybody including the never-to-be pleased opposition acquiesced into voting for it.

By all appearances the speech and the resolution in question were aimed at addressing the internal audience whereas this purpose is best served by the information ministry that is supposed to know the people’s pulse and know what the temperature is like and what tonic of emotionalism is needed to bring it down. The word ‘foreign’ in the nomenclature of the ministry that is headed by the honourable Qureshi is there for a reason. His job is to tailor the local anger into a carefully worded message that while it hurts is seen and packaged as a balm to the outside world.

Asif Ali Zardari warned us the same day that disengagement is no solution. But he was not heard.

It was only in hindsight that Pakistan realized that not engaging India on a forum where Pakistan has more friends that the latter was a diplomatic mistake, to say the least. Particularly, when Pakistan is eager to hold dialogue with India and has accepted offers of mediation by any and every country that has offered to do so.

A forum that has as many as 57 Muslim countries as its members can be expected to do better. Pakistan being its founding member has a list of grievances against the forum. Just lately the foreign minister said that that there are over a dozen resolutions, mainly concerning Kashmir issue, are pending with it and there is no action to speak of.

Forgetting Swaraj invite saga, while Pakistan celebrates the resolution by the OIC that condemns the Indian violence across the line of control, there is a conference communiqué that does not, according to news reports, say a word on Kashmir.

Pakistan itself has to blame for it as against popular advice it chose to stay away from the conference and left the field open for India.

Later foreign minister himself was heard saying that it was against the diplomatic norms to disinvite a country and that the host country could not do much about it. There were also reports that the invite to India was sent out before the Pulwama attack and Pakistan was informed of this move and it had not raised any objection to it.  All the more reason to believe that all the theatrics on display in the media and in the parliament to browbeat the OIC into disinviting the ‘guest of honour’ were for domestic consumption alone.

The OIC has been a weaker forum when compared with Arab League and African Union, and its members, in particular the countries with international clout, align themselves with other countries based on their strategic and economic interests. Simply being an Islamic state unless one happens to be rich as well, does not make one a favourite with the bigwigs.

While reforms at a bigger forum may not be easy and take time, as an immediate measure, Pakistan should look inward and look at its diplomatic behaviour and do some introspection.  Worryingly, the diplomatic finesse seems to have gone out the window. In our effort to speak with ‘one’ voice, diplomats have lost their own distinct voice. It is increasingly getting hard to tell a diplomat from a zealot.