‘Military means alone can’t ensure security’
* Mushahid says govt free to formulate foreign policy, but missions abroad need revamping
* Principled stand on troops to Iraq
By Shahzad Raza
ISLAMABAD: Secretary General Pakistan Muslim League (PML) Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed has said that the government is independent to discuss and change country’s foreign policy keeping in view the international course of events and changes in the global political environment.
“I don’t agree with you that foreign policy of the country was always prepared by the people sitting in the GHQ,” he said in an interview with Daily Times.
In reference to the PML’s manifesto that gives high priority to strengthening the armed forces, Mr Hussain’s observations implied some revisions to that security-oriented approach.
He said: “We need to redefine our concept of national security. The national security of a country can no longer stem from military means alone. Rather, apart from military elements like a standing army, nuclear deterrence and missiles, national security now has to include key non-military components like a strong political base emanating from political parties and democracy, rule of law, human rights, education and strong economy, morale of the people and provincial autonomy.”
The senator, who is also the chairman of the Senate’s standing committee on foreign affairs, referred to the Simla Agreement, Lahore Declaration, the nuclear issue and initiation of a composite-dialogue with India to make his point that civilian leaders had played a dominant role in formulating the foreign policy of Pakistan.
“Frankly, it is up to the political leaders to come up with their own views and vision of the foreign policy. “If Bhutto gave a vision of a nuclear Pakistan, did anybody stop him. And nobody could stop Junejo from signing the Geneva Accords,” he added.
He said that the March 2003 joint resolution of the Senate against the US-led war on Iraq was yet another example of the civilians’ dominance in foreign policy formulation. “Iraq had nothing to do with the ‘war against terrorism’, and the invasion of Iraq did not have the sanction of the United Nations, hence, it was lacking in legitimacy. That was the reason why Pakistan did not support the war nor is it sending troops there now,” the senator added. “We took a principled position that the parliament would decide about troops for Iraq, which is what any parliament would do in a democracy,” he said.
“As far as relations with India are concerned, the party line is straightforward that all the outstanding issues between Pakistan and Indian must be resolved through focused and meaningful dialogue. Having a dialogue with India without discussing Kashmir is like staging Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark,” he added.
However, Mr Hussain said he was not impressed with the performance of Pakistani missions abroad. He added that most of them needed to be revamped.
“I would not blame only the foreign office in this regard for it is the responsibility of the government to improve the efficiency of its foreign missions by giving them greater incentives and better facilities in keeping with their demanding role and professional requirements. We have to provide fuel for our fighting machine in this diplomatic battle, and a service demoralised due to pay and benefits cannot deliver.”
Emphasising the need for a multi-faceted region-based foreign policy, he maintained that excellent relations with China, dialogue with India, closer interaction with European countries and the ASEAN region were the prerequisites for a sound foreign policy. “Three elements are vital in this context. First, for any foreign policy to be successful, it has to be rooted in the domestic base, which includes political stability, national consensus, sound economy, effective military deterrence, and above all, quality of leadership,” he added.
Mr Hussain also dispelled the impression that his party legitimised to every policy of the military establishment. “National interest should be paramount, hence the China policy or the nuclear issue remained consistent, irrespective of whether there was a civilian or a military government,” he said. He also took strong exception to suggestions that PML was a ‘king’s party’ and was thus unable to act independently.
He said that because of Pakistan’s own initiatives and the geopolitical scenario, Pakistan was today a pivotal political player in the world. “Today we matter, and our voice is listened to with respect and seriousness. Due to these reasons, we have got a breather in foreign policy, and we should use this opening to consolidate our gains by stabilising the political system through a policy of reconciliation, consensus and dialogue through the parliament and political forces,” he underlined.