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The Objectivity Of A Pak-US Reset Amid The Cable Row – OpEd


Needless to say, as manifested from the legacy of the Pakistan-US relations,  Washington’s relations with Islamabad have weathered the low and high tides depending on the  changing regional and international situation, but this relationship can never be divorced because  of the underpinning bilateral needs between the two sides—the US and Pakistan binding both the states into a catch-22 scenario. In the current context, two developments marred this relationship: one, the ex PM Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow, second, a diplomatic cable sent from our former US envoy to the Pakistan foreign Office.  On both fronts, the US and the Pakistani government must try dispel the confusion arose from these issues.


 As for the former PM Imran Khan‘s visit to Moscow, the fact of the matter is that Pakistan intends to maintain a healthy relationship with all the global powers, including the US. By no means, the US had had to be judgmental about the hidden motives regarding PM Khan’s visit to Russia, The resonance of a diplomatic cable in both the capitals-Washington and Islamabad have moved the diplomats. In diplomatic mechanism, diplomatic cables are normally a routine matter through which a host county manages its diplomatic correspondence from a foreign country, same goes with the methodology of a message by means of a demarche, a host county adopts against a foreign envoy. ‘’A demarche is a formal diplomatic representation of one government’s official position, views, or wishes on a given subject to an appropriate official in another government or international organization. Demarches generally seek to persuade, inform, or gather information from a foreign government. Governments may also use a demarche to protest or object to actions by a foreign government’’.

 On the contrary, ‘’a diplomatic cable, also known as a diplomatic telegram, cipher or embassy cable, is a confidential text message exchanged between a diplomatic mission, like an embassy or a consulate, and the foreign ministry of its parent country’’. Much is being discussed about the notion of mentioning a diplomatic cable sent from our envoy in the US to the Pakistan Foreign Office.  Though a joint forensic examination can be conducted by the US-Pakistan governments to amicably sort out the brewing confusions in this regard. Pakistan’s envoy to the US could have rightly discharged his duties accordingly. 

Reportedly, the said cable was based on the minutes of a meeting-personal assessment of Pakistan’s envoy to the US embassy. The details of the meeting were sent by the Pakistan ambassador to the US Asad Majeedi to the Foreign Office as part of internal diplomatic communication, which showed that the host country was not happy with the policy of the Pakistan government on Ukraine and its ties with Russia. 

On March 27, while giving a public address in Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan on  shared some details of the “foreign conspiracy letter” with senior journalists and cabinet members, asserting that the document was authentic and a foreign conspiracy was afoot to remove him from power, touting the Opposition’s no-confidence motion against him as a testimony of “foreign-funded” move to topple his government. According to some media reports, it was assumed that the so called ‘foreign-conspiracy’ letter was sent to Ambassador Asad Majeed on the basis of his meeting with the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu.

Consequent upon the holding of the National Security Committee’s meeting on March 31, the Foreign Office summoned the US ambassador and registered its official protest regarding the contents of the said cable. A Foreign Office spokesman said the letter was issued in light of a decision by the National Security Committee. The US State Department’s spokesperson Edward Price denied any notion of the US involvement in the threatening cable regarding the no-confidence motion. British media said that the US State Department has denied the allegations. 


According to the Dawn newspaper, ‘’One source claimed Mr Lu’s arguments were “alarming and far from routine”, but he did not threaten a regime-change. The source also claimed that no one attending the meeting felt that the Americans were hatching a conspiracy to topple the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government. “No, there’s no conspiracy. Nobody got that impression,” the source added. “But they did say the outcome will impact bilateral ties, which can be interpreted either way.”

Though one cannot refute the argument that a diplomatic language must always underpin the principles agreed in the Vienna Convention of 1961. ‘’The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which discusses the freedom of communication given to all members of the diplomatic mission. According to the Article 27.1, the receiving State shall permit and protect free communication on the part of the mission for all official purposes. Representatives from the sending State may employ all appropriate means, including diplomatic couriers and messages in code or cipher, in communicating with their Government and the other missions and consulates. However, if the mission wishes to use a wireless transmitter, it must first have consent of the receiving State. Without the right of free communication, the mission cannot effectively carry out two of its most important functions—negotiating with the government of the receiving State and reporting to the government of the sending State on conditions and developments in the receiving State’’.

Conversely to the above stated diplomatic norms, as shown from the apparent tapestry of the language used in the cipher, one may have a logical inference to hold that an interventionist US approach was demonstrated by Mr Lu. And this what the core of the findings concluded by the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting held on March 31. 

Anyway, be it the previous government or the new one, the US tactical attempt at pressuring Pakistan has not worked and will never work. Veritably, the psyche of the Pakistani nation holds a paramount role to play in shaping the contours of its state’s foreign policy. The Foreign policy Magazine has recently wisely argued ‘’The “maximum pressure” campaign used against Iran eroded the middle class, hurt private businesses, was a boon for ventures backed by the security establishment, and helped advance hard-liner narratives. A copy-and-paste application of this failed policy in Pakistan would likely produce similar results or simply foment a rally-around-the-flag effect. Some critics of Washington’s reliance on Pakistan propose a narrower approach focused on targeted sanctions against specific officials, ending its major non-NATO ally status, and scaling back attempts to cooperate’’.

The US government last Friday once again rebutted former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s allegations of ousting him, saying the US agreed with the Pakistan military spokesperson’s statement over this. A day earlier, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General Major General Babar Iftikhar clarified that the word “conspiracy” was not used in the statement issued after a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) last month. Despite intermittent clarifications from the US Government, certain misapprehensions still rule in the mind of the Pakistanis. In this backdrop, in order to demystify the myth, the new Government under the auspices of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called up a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on April 22. It is likely that the current NSC meeting will endorse its previous findings’.

Nonetheless, with the change of government in Pakistan, both the sides, the US and Pakistan are once gained engaged in reviving the objectivity of a new rest in their relations.  From the US point of view, there are four major factors that Washington’s idee fixe on Pakistan will not be changing because of some major imperatives: First, Pakistan geostrategic position, second, Pakistan’s relations with China, third, Pakistan holds unique position in the OIC, fourth Pakistan is the only Muslim nuclear power. From the Pakistani point of view, our military, economic, strategic dependency on the US are the driving exigencies that warrant a long term partnership with the US.

*Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi is an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum- an international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of European Society of International Law (ESIL).

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