It is after a long time that we have seen sensible, pragmatic and deliberate decision making by the Prime Minister as regards our Foreign Policy . Beset by a fear that we would rush headlong into becoming part of the 34 member ‘Islamic Coalition against Terrorism’ – an idea mooted by Saudi Arabia, we heaved a sigh of relief on being informed that Pakistan had agreed to play an indirect role in the Alliance related to intelligence sharing, training and supply of equipment – all underlined by our resolve to arbitrate and create mutually acceptable ground for talks between the Saudis and Iran. Our relief is however partial because of a nagging concerns stemming from the stated purpose of the Coalition and the possibility that a wide interpretation of ‘terror’ may lead to misuse of resources by member countries to achieve ‘other ends’.

In the historical perspective, our diplomats do not appear to have the capacity of doing a tight rope act, something which the present scenario critically demands, if we are to successfully implement our decision in letter and spirit. We can neither afford to isolate ourselves from the comity of Islamic States nor can we create hostility between ourselves and Iran for obvious reasons. This is a situation, where we need to put together the best minds in our Foreign Service, into a case oriented ‘think team’ and move ahead with only one end in mind – our long term national interest.

Adoption of a pragmatic approach to our stated role in the coalition will take some courage. We should treat this point in time as a window of opportunity to put our economy on track and to that end, must put a price on training and supply of equipment, while intelligence sharing should be by and large on a reciprocal basis. We should adopt this policy with the knowledge that in the past six decades our emotive decision making has not served us well.

I was once asked by a colleague that in the event of time travel ever becoming possible, what was the one thing that I would like undone in Pakistan’s historical past. I unhesitatingly replied that I would induce our first Prime Minister to change his maiden state visit destination from United States to Russia. We only have to look eastwards to see the results, if such a decision had been taken. As a student of history and current affairs, I am keenly watching the warming up of Indo – US relations to see if this development heralds a cooling of Indo - Russian rapport. I am sure that our Foreign Office must be mindful of what is happening and has worked out multiple scenarios and how any windows of opportunity that present themselves can be exploited.

Great things are expected from the Pak-China Economic Corridor, in terms of national growth and grass root prosperity. Regretfully, the mega project has been turned into a political issue by some parties mindless of the effects that such activity may have, on what is perhaps a historic opportunity with unlimited potential. While a partnership with the Chinese is both logical and geopolitically desirable, we must work towards a policy that takes into account the reality of Russian proximity and resurgence as a pole.

Much as I want to believe that the impromptu visit of the Indian PM to Lahore was a sincere effort towards forging peace between the two Subcontinental nuclear rivals, my mind refuses to totally acknowledge it as such. This point of view is based on the long history of Indian involvement in destabilizing Pakistan, the rise of Hindu extremism and Mr. Modi’s role in the Gujrat incident and last but not the least, repeated targeting of Pakistani Territory by Indian Military on the Working Boundary. We must however continue striving for a lasting peace, without letting our guard down or being naïve and unmindful of the fact that the other side is known to be a master of guile in a true reflection of its adherence to the ‘Chanakya School of Diplomacy’.