Pakistan at the United Nations

Pakistan has always been a prominent member of the United Nations. An active role was essential once India referred the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in 1948 to the UN Security Council. Some of Pakistan’s most outstanding diplomats have represented the country with distinction at the world body – Sir Zafarullah Khan, Agha Shahi, and Iqbal Akhund to name a few. Pakistani diplomats have also served at the highest levels at the UN Secretariat and as heads of UN organizations. Pakistan’s contributions to the evolution and development of the UN and its organs are extensive and legendary. These include the creation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Peacekeeping Operations, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the (current) Human Rights Council. For decades, Pakistan’s influence in the Organization ranked as much, if not higher, than many major powers and larger nations.
Over the past two decades, its prominent role has become diminished for multiple reasons: inefficient economic performance and accompanying weakness; the incumbency of leaders vulnerable to pressure and manipulation by external powers; the U.S. military and political support of India and simultaneous penalties against Pakistan; the rise of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan following its involvement in the anti-Soviet “jihad” and the subsequent “war on terrorism”.
Among other setbacks, Pakistan allowed itself to be “de-hyphenated” from India on nuclear issues; it did not actively oppose India’s massive arms build up; it became the target of the campaign against terrorism; it did not fight to be included in the Group of 20 (major economies),  reducing its economic leadership role; it refrained, except for formal statements, from raising the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in relevant UN bodies .

Verbal proposals are insufficient. The call for the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in Kashmir could be made formally in the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. In future, every incident of India’s oppression should be formally reported to the UN Secretary General, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, and circulated to UN member states. A compendium should be issued periodically and fully publicized. Eventually, Pakistan should consider submitting formal proposals in the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to oblige India to end its violations and resume a dialogue, for example, through a Special Envoy or Mediator appointed by the UN Secretary General.

The proposals for mutual restraint and arms control between Pakistan and India should be revived formally. They should include a call for restraint in the supply of advanced weapons’ systems to India by the U.S., Russia, Israel, France and others.


It is in the context of this adverse political background and wilting national confidence that Pakistan’s representatives are now obliged to fight a rearguard action at the United Nations to preserve and protect Pakistan’s core interests.
Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi made efforts to revive national self-respect and – participated in the “high level segment” of the UN General Assembly session from September 23-30. This segment of the Assembly witnesses a spate of “speed diplomacy”, where the assembled Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers deliver their policy statements in the Assembly, attend several regional and special forums and meet each other within the space of few days.
The Foreign Minister’s policy statement was a well crafted exposition of Pakistan’s current position on the Kashmir dispute and the tense relationship with India. It reaffirmed Pakistan’s willingness to promote a political settlement in Afghanistan; conveyed its concern about Islamophobia and attacks against Islam; expressed its desire to address global challenges,  such as climate change; and, renewed its commitment to effective reform of the United Nations.
The speech was the clearest and strongest exposition heard in years of Indian oppression in Occupied Kashmir and its aggressive posture towards Pakistan. The Foreign Minister endorsed the recent UN Report cataloguing the massive human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, expressed Pakistan’s willingness to receive the proposed UN Commission of Inquiry and urged India to do so as well. He underlined the importance of maintaining a military balance between Pakistan and India. Pakistan reiterated its readiness for a dialogue with India whenever it was ready.
On Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister recalled Imran Khan’s consistent advocacy of a political settlement and affirmed Pakistan’s readiness to help in commencing talks to promote a settlement  between the principal parties: the U.S., the Afghan Taliban and the National Unity Government.

Pakistan has an opportunity to assume a leadership role in global economic diplomacy. With China, India, Mexico and Brazil having joined the Group of 20 major economies, the developing countries have been left leaderless. Pakistan has an opportunity to assume a leadership role in propagating an equal global economic and financial system which, consistent with the government’s national agenda, reflects the primacy of human and social development rather than only economic growth.


Notably, while recalling Pakistan’s close cooperation with China on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Foreign Minister made no mention of the U.S. in the policy statement.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister also participated in several other multilateral events on the margins of the UN General Assembly:
•     A special meeting on UN Peacekeeping Operations to which Pakistan is one of the largest contributors. Pakistan was the first to endorse the UN Secretary General’s new Action Plan on UN Peacekeeping.
•     A ministerial meeting of the Uniting for Consensus (UFC) Group where Pakistan and Italy have led a large number of UN members opposed to the campaign by the G-4 (India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) to secure new permanent seats on the UN Security Council.
•   The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Annual Coordination Meeting of Ministers which adopted a comprehensive declaration on issues of primary concern, including Jammu and Kashmir. It accorded special attention to the Dutch caricature issue where the planned cartoon event was cancelled due to collective OIC action led by Pakistan.
•     The meeting of the OIC’s Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir in which, besides its member states, Kashmiri representatives also participated.
•     Ministerial meetings of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) – Pakistan, Iran and Turkey – and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Statements in SAARC are made in alphabetical order, thus India spoke before Pakistan. The Indians again displayed their diplomatic brusqueness by having their Foreign Minister exit the meeting before Pakistan’s Minister made his statement. Obviously, India is not only not prepared to talk to Pakistan, it is not even willing to listen.
The Foreign Minister met the UN Secretary General (UNSG) and pressed for his intervention on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and resumption of a Pakistan-India dialogue. The UNSG expressed his willingness to mediate but, once again, made this conditional on acceptance of his good offices by both parties.
The Pakistan Minister met with his counterparts from over 20 countries during his stay in New York including China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, UK, Japan, EU, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt, reflecting Pakistan’s new geopolitical focus on Asia and the Muslim world.
The Minister also attended the reception hosted by U.S. President Trump and exchanged affirmations of the desire for cooperative bilateral relations. The Foreign Minister was invited by U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo for later talks in Washington covering bilateral relations and Afghanistan.
The United Nations is a vital body, especially for the world’s small and medium states. The principles of the UN Charter, particularly the prohibition of the use of force except in self-defence or when authorized by the UN Security Council, are an important legal, political and moral bulwark against aggression by larger and powerful states against the smaller and weaker members of the international community. The Charter espouses the “sovereign equality” and “territorial integrity” of States and “self-determination” for all peoples under foreign or alien occupation or domination. It calls for the peaceful settlement of disputes through conciliation, mediation and arbitration and urges international cooperation to promote better conditions of life for all peoples in larger freedoms. In short, it offers the avenues of collective action and negotiation through which smaller and weaker states can assert their national interests in international affairs.

Pakistan is also well placed to lead an effort to reform and revive the United Nations. Under the Trump onslaught, most major powers are preoccupied with preserving their own narrow national interests. The UN has no champions at present. Pakistan can – as it has in the past – lead a group of likeminded developing countries to propose ways and means to enhance the UN’s role and effectiveness in addressing threats to peace and security, global challenges, like poverty and climate change, and ensuring that the interests of smaller and medium sized states are not ignored in UN processes and world politics.


Unfortunately, the United Nations – the principal avenue of multilateral cooperation,  and indeed the entire world order established after the Second World War – are today under concerted attack from the very power which conceived and created this Order. Great power rivalries have revived. Unilateral intervention by more powerful states against weaker neighbours is again emerging as the norm. The UN Security Council has been unable to stop the series of bloody wars and interventions in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. Vital negotiations take place among major powers mostly outside the United Nations. A new arms race is underway in nuclear weapons, missile systems, “autonomous” weapons, outer space, cyber space and Artificial Intelligence among the major powers and aspiring great powers. The global trade regime is being torn up and the U.S.-led financial system is volatile and vulnerable.
So far, no coalition of responsible nations and leaders has emerged to halt this pervasive spiral towards global disorder and disaster. Does Pakistan – under its new leadership – have the self confidence and will to assume a leadership role in restoring the credibility of the United Nations and thereby also promoting its own vital interests and foreign policy objectives? 
There are several initiatives which Pakistan could take at the United Nations to advance its interests and restore its primacy in the world body.
For one, it is essential to more actively project the horrendous situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and press for an equitable resolution of this dangerous dispute. Verbal proposals are insufficient. The call for the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in Kashmir could be made formally in the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. In future, every incident of India’s oppression should be formally reported to the UN Secretary General, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, and circulated to UN member states. A compendium should be issued periodically and fully publicized. Eventually, Pakistan should consider submitting formal proposals in the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to oblige India to end its violations and resume a dialogue, for example, through a Special Envoy or Mediator appointed by the UN Secretary General.
These actions will shift the debate away from the bogey of “terrorism”, exert pressure on India to halt its oppression and may persuade it to negotiate an acceptable solution.
Second, Pakistan should vigorously project the real danger of a Pakistan-India war because of India’s massive arms acquisitions and hostile military posture and threats against Pakistan. Such a war could well escalate to the nuclear level. The proposals for mutual restraint and arms control between Pakistan and India should be revived formally. They should include a call for restraint in the supply of advanced weapons’ systems to India by the U.S., Russia, Israel, France and others.
Pakistan was obliged to acquire nuclear weapons capability by India’s nuclearization. It should not assume the airs of a nuclear power. If Pakistan seeks to prevent “new centres of privilege” in the world, it should not desire the privileges of belonging to the elite “nuclear club”.  While insisting on “nuclear parity” with India, Pakistan’s political position should be aligned with the majority of non-nuclear states and it should join them in seeking global denuclearization and conventional arms control, even if this appears improbable at present.
Third, Pakistan has an opportunity to assume a leadership role in global economic diplomacy. With China, India, Mexico and Brazil having joined the Group of 20 major economies, the developing countries have been left leaderless. 

Pakistan has an opportunity to assume a leadership role in propagating an equal global economic and financial system which, consistent with the government’s national agenda, reflects the primacy of human and social development rather than only economic growth.
Finally, Pakistan is also well placed to lead an effort to reform and revive the United Nations. Under the Trump onslaught, most major powers are preoccupied with preserving their own narrow national interests. The UN has no champions at present. Pakistan can – as it has in the past – lead a group of likeminded developing countries to propose ways and means to enhance the UN’s role and effectiveness in addressing threats to peace and security, global challenges, like poverty and climate change, and ensuring that the interests of smaller and medium sized states are not ignored in UN processes and world politics.
 


The writer has served in the Pakistan Foreign Service for over 40 years. He was Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York; Permanent Representative to the UN and WTO in Geneva; Additional Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to the European Economic Community in Belgium and Luxembourg.
E-mail: [email protected]

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