Bilawal cuts a sorry figure because of lack of preparation — he should have given a befitting response to his biased Indian counterpart

Bilawal cuts a sorry figure because of lack of preparation -- he should have given a befitting response to his biased Indian counterpart

By Irum Saleem

    Poor Bilawal Bhutto Zaradri cut a sorry figure in India. Had he be been better prepared he would have anticipated the Indian mentality well and responded befittingly to S. Jaishankar.

   No bilateral breakthroughs were expected between Pakistan and India at the SCO foreign ministers’ conclave in Goa, and none occurred.

    Dawn thinks that Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari did the right thing by attending the multilateral moot in India, signalling that Pakistan is very much interested in interacting with states in its larger neighbourhood, and frustrating plans by certain actors to isolate this country.

   “It was highly unlikely that both Pakistan and India would give up their respective positions on key bilateral issues, particularly Kashmir, but more optimistic observers were hoping that personal interactions between both states’ top diplomats would at least break the ice and pave the way for dialogue. That did not turn out to be the case.”

     The paper further writes the SCO is not supposed to be an organisation to bring up members’ bilateral disputes. That is why Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s remarks at the forum about the need to contain “cross-border terrorism” — a very thinly veiled reference to Pakistan — ensured that no bilateral encounters occurred on the sidelines of the event.

    “Bhutto-Zardari met a number of his other SCO counterparts bilaterally, but not Jaishankar. The foreign minister reiterated the fact that terrorism should not be weaponised for “diplomatic point-scoring”.

    Aside from the official speech, the Indian foreign minister’s comments to the media regarding Pakistan and its top diplomat were also in poor taste. It appeared as if Mr Jaishankar was speaking as the spokesman for the BJP instead of the Indian government. The fact is both sides, particularly India, should have taken advantage of the situation; instead, yet another opportunity to mend ties was lost.

    “The Indian political establishment keeps harping on Pakistan’s alleged role in promoting militancy, but the fact is that Indian officials themselves admit that infiltration across the LoC has decreased. On Pakistan’s part, there is a realisation that the establishment’s past policies concerning the support for militant actors in India-held Kashmir damaged Pakistan’s position internationally, and hurt the Kashmir cause.

It gave India the perfect excuse to raise the bogey of terrorism at multilateral fora to isolate Pakistan — and to crack down brutally on Kashmiris in the occupied area, eventually snatching from them whatever little autonomy they had.”

   It says the experience should prompt decision-makers in Pakistan to adopt a wiser, more pragmatic diplomatic course to make a strong case for Kashmiri rights internationally. Meanwhile, if both sides want to truly transcend the toxic relationship of the past seven decades, they must come to the negotiating table without stringent preconditions. By implementing the ‘softer’ confidence-building measures, a more conducive atmosphere for dialogue can be created. The SCO leaders’ summit is due to be held in India in July. Hopefully, some concrete steps to promote bilateral peace can be taken at that event.

   Bilawal on the other hand should better focus on foreign affairs handling. He still shies to visit Afghanistan why one doesn’t know. Perhaps he can better tell. He should avoid touring the world unnecessarily. PAK DESTINY

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