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“The PM‘s UNGA Speech needed to Say More.” says Senator Sherry Rehman

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September 23, 2016, Islamabad: “ The PM’s speech was the most important occasion of the year for Pakistan to make its strongest case on key foreign policy issues, especially addressing core challenges in the region. While the case made for Kashmir as it undergoes unprecedented uprisings in the Indian-held valley against state atrocities covered much ground, the speech was riddled with glaring deficits. In a world where smart diplomacy is the new normal, and reactive policy is old school, Pakistan’s international position still went unflanked on many fronts” said Senator Sherry Rehman, VP PPPP, while commenting on the government’s foreign policy failures.

“The PPP has always played a responsible role on national issues, so we have always upheld national unity clear in times of crisis, but it pains many of us to see opportunities being squandered. We have always advocated peace with India and Afghanistan for instance, and had managed much better relations in the Zardari-Gilani administration. But peace always has to be on just terms, and right now India has upped its aggression in more ways than one. There should have been a strong refutation of the Modi government’s new equation between the status of Kashmir with that of Balochistan, for instance. Why wait for Indian coercive diplomacy to make this point? Why brush the Kalbhushan Yadav type intrusion under the table.”

Senator Sherry Rehman said that, “Kashmir is a flashpoint no one can ignore. Pakistan will not only have to amplify its narrative but also re-imagine its policy toolkit. The PM should have gone to the UN after calling a joint session of parliament, which he chose not to do. He would have had the full power of Pakistan’s undivided democracy behind him, but for some reason they don’t even consult their own cabinet. This critical democratic deficit will impact Pakistan’s political unity at a time of crisis, but the federal government fails to demonstrate mature leadership.” She said.

“The failure to appoint a full-time foreign minister is also reflecting on our performance everywhere, particularly the United States, which is key to shaping global narratives on terrorism, or for the dangerous accusations stemming from Congress against Pakistan. Our policy should be pivoted on peace with both India and Afghanistan, but we seem to confuse the broader goal of peace and stability with  constantly over-selling our capacity in Kabul and under-leveraging our soft power. Today Kabul’s own disunity and failures are being laid at our door. It cannot be our problem or our cross to bear, despite our stakes in Afghan peace. In Washington, meanwhile the Pak-American community is not used, the professional lobbyists are not used, I don’t understand why foreign policy has become so shambolic and closed. It has led us to this crisis where we are only reacting to vilification, and doing little to proactively project our own story or change the game at home.”

Commenting on the Uri attack and accusations from Indian side Senator Rehman said, “The Prime Minster has rightly unilaterally offered a transparent investigation into the accusation leveled at Pakistan over the Uri attack. The United Nations is mandated to post United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), as long as an office in Kashmir, and we should call for them to be activated so this drumbeat of accusations emanating from official quarters in New Delhi can end. But the level of violence in Kashmir, as voiced by the Kashmiri people themselves has reached genocidal levels. This must be taken up as I said earlier in parliament by a special envoy for Kashmir, not parliamentarians who are not specialists in this field.”

Senator Sherry Rehman said, “Indian strategy has relied principally on four things. One, to contain the conflict in Kashmir to an internal matter and build an iron certain around the violence and the story. This is changing with the new demographic of discontent coupled with social media as a digital megaphone. People now hear about the brutal repression. Two, India hopes to pressurize Kashmiris by ghettoizing its internal conflict. Third, New Delhi uses violence to grind Kashmiris into submission, but clearly that has backfired as a plan, Kashmiris anger continues to be hydraulic, erupting with more power at each move of repression. Four, India is changing facts on the ground by refusing to acknowledge the disputed nature of the territory.”

“The kind of coercive diplomacy that the Modi government works with completely puts off any rational dialogue that will lead the solutions that might help the people of Kashmir, because at this point of time India is not thinking about the people of Kashmir,” she added.

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