SEOUL - The Nuclear Security Summit concluded yesterday, with the announcement of the Seoul Communique, by South Korean host, President Lee. Pakistan’s role in fulfilling its security responsibilities was lauded by all participants of the conference and the Prime Minister was requested to deliver one of the first speeches at the inaugural dinner. Of significance other than the summit, was his bilateral meeting with the President of the United States, on the sidelines. With the parliamentary review of relations with the US under process, the mood was one of restraint on both sides, perhaps with a few ‘recommendations’ thrown in for old times’ sake. While Pakistan and the US are by no means sailing in fair weather, both are conscious of the reality that the relationship between the two cannot be abandoned and must be salvaged. The peace and stability of neighbouring Afghanistan is of crucial interest to both: Obama for saving face and Pakistan for the direct impact events next door have within the borders, at home. The ‘ownership’ of the relationship, by both countries’ peoples, does not seem to be something either side focuses on - which they would be well advised to do. Parliament, for one, is the body of ‘representatives’ of the people. It must be accepted as such. The debate between the members must truly be in the country’s larger interest and not be used for political point scoring and twisting further, the arm of a wounded Pakistani voter.

On the sidelines of the summit, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar maintained a hectic schedule of back-to-back bilaterals. As we are wont, many questions have been raised over the ‘purpose’ of going to South Korea for the summit or what Pakistan has ‘come back with’. This is the thought cycle of a self-saboteur. In today’s world, where Pakistan has seen time and again the harm word of mouth can do and the fact that perceptions often trump reality, this is not the time to shy away from the spotlight. If you do not participate in these events and take advantage of the interaction they offer, to build contacts and reach out to as many people/countries as possible, Pakistan will never be able to compete. A famous quote goes: “Half of life is showing up.” This has never been more true. ‘See and be seen’ is not just a social phenomenon, it is also a requirement of the job. Any country which wishes to progress at a competitive rate can no longer do so on its own. It must realise that its position in the society of nations is negotiable up or down only through its own efforts, and not discountable under any circumstances - unless we wish to end up like North Korea, isolated and starving.

Just like none of the 3,700 journalists covering the summit will win a Pulitzer for their efforts in doing their jobs, Pakistan should not expect a windfall of nuclear riches and acclaim from attending this one summit. It was necessary to attend, it has been done and some small step in the long journey to normalising Pakistan’s image from being associated with terrorism and Osama bin Laden’s last haunt, has been taken. We all wish we could be seen the way we truly are by the world, today. If only wishes were horses...

Here, I would like to take the opportunity to clear up one misconception created by an interview of Prime Minister Gilani, published by the Korea Times. In it, separate from the PM’s direct quotes, the author writes, “Both India and Pakistan scored miserably on the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Nuclear Security Index...India ranked 5th worst in the world with 49 and Pakistan 2nd worst with 41.” This information seems remarkable, given Pakistan’s excellent nuclear security records and their acclamation by even the Israelis. At a press conference arranged for the Pakistani press corps accompanying the delegation, I put this question to Ms Khar, who along with the Pakistani Ambassador to China, Mr Masood Khan (also chief negotiator at the summit), explained that despite the impressive and official sounding name of the Index, it is unrecognised. There was, in fact, a move to include criticism of it in the Seoul Communique, which appears to have been shelved to avoid giving further publicity to a privately organised, unofficial survey which even rates China as poor in nuclear security preparation. No credible nuclear security survey as yet exists and none is as such recognised by the countries of the world possessing nuclear weapons or involved in energy generation by nuclear fuels.