Culture of optimism will empower Pakistan to meet challenges: Lodhi

Source: Published in Current Affairs on Monday, April 18, 2016

CAMBRIDGE: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Dr Maleeha Lodhi has said that it was important to create a culture of optimism in Pakistan to empower it to meet its various challenges.

Speaking at the Harvard Pakistan Forum, she said that at a time when the country was making gains on security and economic fronts the remaining challenges would best be met by an expression of national self-confidence and self-belief. “And this means adopting a positive outlook.”

Although Ambassador Lodhi’s talk was about Pakistan’s role in international politics, she spoke at length about domestic issues, particularly the demographic transition which, if managed well by investing in education, would enable the country to reap a demographic dividend.

Renowned historian Ayesha Jalal presided over the session and asked several questions about Pakistan’s international role and its foreign policy strategy.

Dr Lodhi said historically Pakistan had played an active and constructive role in addressing vital global issues, such as peace and security, development, and more recently climate change.

She said Pakistan’s leading contribution to UN peacekeeping missions had been universally acknowledged. “Our troops have served in 41 missions in 23 countries since the early 1960s, and we deployed over 140,000 troops to UN missions all over the world. We have over 7,000 troops deployed in six UN peacekeeping operations and have consistently been among the world’s top three troop contributing nations.”

She said Pakistan had served seven terms as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, “an indicator of our role and contribution to the evolution of principles and norms of conflict prevention and resolution”.

Dr Lodhi said Pakistan had served thrice in the UN Human Rights Council established 10 years ago. “Pakistan also plays a major role in the Non-Aligned Movement, Group of 77 and the OIC.”

She said an important example of the key role Pakistan played was during the country’s Security Council membership in 2002 when the US sought international legitimisation of its invasion of Iraq. “Pakistan did not support any Security Council resolution by which the US and UK wanted to sanctify their military intervention. Pakistan upheld the principle of non-intervention and sovereignty of states despite the pressure exerted on it by the proponents of the Iraq invasion.”

The ambassador said that Pakistan did not budge and no resolution was passed by a divided council. “Developments subsequently have only vindicated Pakistan’s stance.”

She said the current state of play in the region with both Afghanistan and India “represent our main external challenge today”.

Dr Lodhi presented a more positive outlook on the Western front and a less hopeful one on India.

She said a military solution to the conflict within Afghanistan had proved elusive for the past 14 years. “There is now a firm international consensus that a political solution is the only viable way to bring peace to Afghanistan.” And this was what Pakistan has advocated and recommended for the past decade or more, she added.

Stressing that a peace process would have to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, she said that Pakistan had sought to assist Kabul to put such a process in place.

Pakistan hosted the first direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban last July and has since continued its effort to revive this process.

The ambassador said Islamabad played a key role in the decision reached by Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States to create a Quadrilateral Coordination Group to provide decisive impetus to Afghanistan’s peace efforts. She told the audience that the QCG had evolved a detailed roadmap for a workable peace and reconciliation process.

She expressed the hope that with this framework in place direct talks would resume sooner rather than later.

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