From April 25 to April 29, The Future of Diplomacy Project and India and South Asia Project hosted the annual South Asia Week with influential practitioners and experts of diplomacy from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and the U.S. invited to discuss prevailing issues affecting the region. The series was cosponsored by the South Asia Institute and featured events with Ambassador Meleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, Ambassador Mohammad Ziauddin of Bangladesh, Richard Olson, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations. Below are several summaries of the events:
In this edition of “Conversations in Diplomacy,” the Future of Diplomacy Project’s Executive Director, Cathryn Clüver, speaks with Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Ambassador Lodhi discusses regional cooperation and diplomatic priorities for the country. She discusses Pakistan’s role at the United Nations on topics such as climate change, peace and security issues and dynamics related to developing countries. The Ambassador highlights the relationship between the United States and Pakistan in the past and looking forward.
On April 28, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin,examined India’s evolving role in multilateral institutions in a public speech that concluded the Future of Diplomacy Project’s annual 2016 South Asia Week titled “India’s Increasing Role in Multilateral Relations and its Global Interests.” Executive Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and the India and South Asia Program, Cathryn Clüver, moderated the event at the Center for Government and International Studies.
Ambassador Akbaruddin stressed India’s identity as a nation that has traditionally and to this day embraced multilateralism. Indian diplomacy is deeply multilateral in its makeup…[we are] open to membership to virtually every organization. “That’s our natural inclination; that’s our natural drift,” stated the Ambassador.
Challenges of Globalization:
Speaking on issues of legitimacy and representation within the United Nations, Ambassador Akbaruddin maintained that institutions like the UN Security Council are out of touch with the reality of “what threatens global peace and security.” Ambassador Akbaryddin described India as a “change-power in multilateral teams; a power that is not satisfied with the status quo” and seeks “evolution” and “improvement” of the existing diplomatic international structures. “What we seek is reform, not revolution,” the Ambassador reflected. Nonetheless, the Ambassador emphasized positive trends occurring globally with the increase of plurilateral fora designed to accommodate new countries and respond to global issues in a more cross-sectional and cross-regional way. In particular, the Ambassador referenced the way in which the G-8 expanded to transform itself into the G-20 after the global financial crisis in 2008.
India’s Engagement Strategy:
The Ambassador described three essential levels of engagement in India’s foreign policy strategy: 1) emphasis on India’s periphery; 2) G20 countries; 3) and the protection of new global public goods such as internet governance, trade, and freedom of the high seas. He underscored that the “new aspirational India” that is developing finds itself ready to engage multilaterally with a large number of countries in different regions of the world. Ambassador Akbaruddin concluded that this new India is no longer satisfied by being a “rule-taker” and is functioning instead as a “rule-shaper” with the hopes of becoming a future “rule-maker.”
As part of the India and South Asia Program’s annual speaker series, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the United Nations discussed her country’s regional agenda.
Pakistan’s Domestic Priorities
Pakistan has transitioned from a crisis economy to a stable economy, the Ambassador said. Achieving stable, sustainable economic growth while mitigating social inequality was the priority of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government, Lodhi noted.
“Almost 66% of our population is under the age of 30. We have the challenge of finding skills, education and jobs for the young. This can be a factor for instability should these challenges not be addressed. We know that a politically and economically stable country is better able to “defeat (..) militancy and terrorists as well as create conditions that make it inhospitable for violent extremism to flourish,” she noted listing the defeat of extremist elements as a top priority for her government.
Increased regional stability could have a stabilizing effect for ongoing domestic efforts; hence Pakistan had committed itself to supporting the reconciliation effort in Afghanistan, and was working toward normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. Pakistan remained committed to nuclear non-proliferation. It also accorded high priority to building regional cooperation.
“Increased regional economic cooperation and connectivity could further contribute to the wider region’s stability,” she said.
Prime examples of advances in this arena included the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (part of China’s Silk Road ‘One Belt, One Road’ vision), to connect this entire continent to the Middle East and serve as a land bridge to Europe.
Pakistan’s Global Responsibility
With its nearly 200 million citizens and as the seventh most populous nation in the world Pakistan had a key role to play at the international level. As the world’s second largest Muslim nation, Pakistan has a critical and influential voice in the Muslim world.
“Pakistan has been very active diplomatically since its inception. In the 50s and 60s Pakistan was a leading actor in the diplomacy accompanying the decolonization process at the United Nations and elsewhere,” she said.
Its commitment to multilateral diplomacy remained high: Pakistan has served seven times as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and had committed 140,000 Pakistani troops to 41 U.N. missions in 23 countries since the 1960s.
Pakistan and India: A Challenging Relationship
Ambassador Lodhi acknowledged the ongoing tensions between the two major players in the region. “It is disappointing from Islamabad’s perspective to see the government in Delhi not respond to any of the peace overtures that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made to India.” No formal dialogue between India and Pakistan currently exists: “Whatever the issues are between India and Pakistan, we need to be talking because a ‘no talks’ option is no option.” She was confident that the issues on partition that had never been settled were “ripe for resolution,” and noted that there was much to be gained by economic cooperation for regional growth and security.
Pakistan’s Role in Afghanistan
“There is now a firm international consensus that this war has to end by a negotiated peace in Afghanistan as we have seen the limits of military action,” Ambassador Lodhi noted with respect to the conflict in Pakistan’s neighboring country. The reported death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar had stalled progress on talks that had just begun aimed at a negotiated peace.
The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) composed of representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China had committed to undertake efforts to promote a peace process in Afghanistan. This structure could have a benign impact on the speed of renewed diplomatic efforts, she said. “We are looking at a prolonged military stalemate there. The Afghan national forces cannot hold on to the entire country any more than the Taliban can,” she said. “These are the conditions under which you have to bring the two parties together. Pakistan can only do so much. We cannot negotiate for Afghanistan.”