As an institution the United Nations is widely perceived as being long past its sell-by date, but the world has yet to come up with an alternative and it still stands as the ‘something that is better than nothing’. The annual General Assembly (UNGA) is the moot in which all member nations at least in theory come together in (reasonable) amity. This year the 73rd UNGA finds itself with President Trump chairing a session of the Security Council, and the possibility of diplomatic fisticuffs with the Iranian president is on the horizon. The new Pakistan government has sent the new(ish) foreign minister and his team to work on a programme spread over a week and arranged by one of the nation’s more competent diplomats Maleeha Lodi.
Whatever the opinion may be of the UN it is what it is and the opportunities it presents for international networking are unprecedented. The FM opened the batting for Pakistan with a statement to the effect that freedom of expression must be exercised responsibly. He was in dialogue with his Dutch counterpart and they were ruminating on the outcomes from the ‘blasphemous caricatures’ affair that raised many a headline in Pakistan and barely ruffled the surface in the Netherlands.
Important as it was, of far more importance in the long run for Pakistan is the promotion of economic cooperation and trade and investment, and not just with the Netherlands which is our fifth-largest trading partner in the EU, but with a host of other countries that Pakistan needs to repair links and fences with. There are two dozen bilateral meetings between now and close of play on Saturday September 29 when the FM will lay before the Assembly the priorities of the new government regarding international and regional issues and deliver the requisite statement on Occupied Kashmir. Post to the UNGA there will be a second meeting with US Secretary of State Pompeo for part-the-umpteenth of a reset in Pak-US relations. Busyness or business? Only time will tell.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2018.