Multilateral Diplomacy And Pakistan – OpEd


In this evolving era of globalization, where states are cohesive and closely connected, multilateral diplomacy takes the win from bilateral diplomacy. As the name itself explains, multilateral diplomacy means a cooperation between three or more states in the form of negotiations, peace talks or dialogue in order to obtain a middle ground or a solution acceptable to all. Multilateral diplomacy is of great significance due to this exact reason, it gives states the opportunity to resolve matters in a more considerate and efficient technique, strengthening long-term relations between states, on its way.

It is conducted through different platforms that bring the states together and provide them with an environment that aids negotiations and peace processes, as well as boosts mutual trust and presents the states with opportunities that allow them to develop interdependence. Hence, consequently creating a path towards stable peace. These platforms are provided by organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), among others. These organizations provide the states with a formal and systematic route that needs to be followed in order to reach cooperation. However, states might also opt for more informal ways towards conducting multilateral diplomacy through summits such as the G 20 Summit and diplomatic dialogues. 

Even so multilateral diplomacy might not always be successful due to various reasons but all of them revolving around power. Usually, one state holds dominance over the other state in a conflicted situation, automatically getting the upper hand in the situation. In such a case, multilateral diplomacy becomes a process of slow progress as states are more likely to exploit other states due to the power that they hold over them. Interests of the involved actors not aligning and states showing unwillingness to compromise due to lack of trust, further enables multilateral diplomacy to become a slow paced process. 

Another limitation of multilateral diplomacy is the lack in enforcement of measures. Organizations seldom follow up on the situations after an agreement has been reached, allowing states to become relaxed and delay the implementation of the solution provided or decided. One example of this could be a resolution passed by the UN after 1948 calling for a plebiscite to determine the region’s future. However, this resolution has still not been implemented due to the differing stances from both countries.

Multilateral diplomacy faces another challenge in the form of the complex nature of certain conflicts. The conflicts are prolonged and involve a lot of history between the actors that makes it extremely difficult for them to reach a common ground. Furthermore, certain states find themselves actively involved in dense political tensions that are always evolving, making the agreements reached in the past, invalid and unsuitable. 

However, one should not invalidate or disregard the significance of multilateral diplomacy in any case. It’s ability to bring hundreds of states to a single platform and persuade them into accepting resolutions that unite the whole world, is one that should be properly acknowledged and appreciated. 

How is Multilateral diplomacy affiliated with Pakistan? 

Numerous multilateral organizations play a crucial role in actively addressing the conflicts in and around Pakistan. These organizations serve as platforms for dialogue and negotiations for Pakistan and other actors in the region. Pakistan is currently surrounded by conflicts as well as heavily conflicted and unstable from within. These organizations provide Pakistan with an opportunity to discuss its perspective and raise awareness of the issues being faced. 

Some Multilateral Organizations operating in Pakistan are:

  • United Nations: Among other organizations the UN and its many divisions play an important role in laying out a plan for Pakistan to maintain its position as a global actor and stay up to date with the rest of world. Particularly the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), provide humanitarian aid to refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and other vulnerable populations in Pakistan. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN agencies collaborate with the government of Pakistan on various development projects including police training, enhancement of textile industry, climate change and natural disaster response.  The UN, most importantly, provides Pakistan with technical assistance and facilitates dialogues during peacebuilding efforts whether the conflict is intra-state or inter-state. The UN’s multilateral diplomacy in Pakistan incudes collaborating with the government and other civil organizations to address complex issues that require global attention and action. It enables Pakistan to follow a path of sustainable development.
  • South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC): SAARC acts as a much needed platform in the heavily conflicted region of South Asia. It originated to give more say to smaller states in the region and to enhance regional integrity through trade, culture and connectivity. SAARC’s summits and meeting allow states of the region including Pakistan to voice their opinions and issues and come forward with a reasonable solution that is agreed upon by all. SAFTA promotes trade and economic cooperation among states and regional connectivity through infrastructural development is encouraged. However, it is important to note that SAARC’s efficiency has been largely impacted by long-term regional tensions and grievances between the states of the region, which makes them less and less motivated to work together for any cause. 
  • The Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC): OIC has 57 member states making it one the largest intergovernmental organization in the world. It was established in 1969 to addresses the concerns and issues faced by the Muslim population of the world, with the purpose to collectively come up with solutions for these issues. The OIC allows Pakistan to engage with other Muslim states and bring their attention towards socio-religious issues faced by Pakistan. The organization serves as a forum for solidarity and cooperation, enabling Pakistan to strengthen its diplomatic ties and engagement within the broader Islamic community. Pakistan has hosted five meetings for the OIC up till now with aims to encourage collaboration and unity among the Muslim states. 
  • Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN): Although Pakistan is not a member of ASEAN, it has actively participated in summits and meetings held by ASEAN. Pakistan has participated in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) which focuses on security and political issues in the Asia-Pacific Region. Furthermore, Pakistan holds a dialogue partnership with ASEAN through which it engages with regular dialogues with the member states.

Pakistan’s perspective on multilateral diplomacy:

Pakistan’s foreign policy focuses on developing friendly, bilateral and multilateral relations with all states through-out the world. It repeatedly talks about Pakistan’s interest and willingness towards opting for tactics involving ‘soft power’. Soft power is the ability of a state to persuade other states through diplomacy, dialogues and negotiations rather than military tactics and actions. The more attractive and legitimate, a state seems to be, the more soft power it holds over other states. 

Soft power can be achieved through various sources that a state holds. The most important ones being culture, politics and foreign policy as famously stated by Joseph Nye. All these sources enable, other states to view that particular state as attractive, legitimate or credible. Pakistan holds this concept highly in its foreign policy especially when the foreign policy states these following agendas:

  • Developing friendly relations with all countries of the world, especially major powers and immediate neighbors.
  • Consolidating our commercial and economic cooperation with international community.
  •  Ensuring optimal utilization of national resources for regional and international cooperation.

This presents Pakistan as a desirable nation to cooperate and collaborate with. However, some hurdles faced by Pakistan in achieving this vision are the long standing issues that Pakistan has been facing in the form of Kashmir Conflict, Durand line as well as inter-state conflicts such as the Balochistan insurgency, terrorism at the hands of non-state actors and continuous political tensions. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s strong geo-strategic location makes it appear as attractive enough for other states to strengthen their diplomatic relations with.

Future of Multilateral Diplomacy and solutions to overcome the issues:

The ever growing globalization only allows multilateral diplomacy to flourish and become the most efficient way of states working together. However, little success can be achieved if the ongoing issues remain. There will always objection and hurdles in the way of success for multilateral diplomacy, meaning not much progress could likely be achieved in comparison to the present era.

Therefore, states should form a vision that they are global players rather than following the traditional self-centric approach. Here, it is also of great importance to note that with merely good diplomatic strategies, the goals will not be attained. However, with the presence of intellectual and intelligent leaders who are farsighted, a good diplomatic strategy can further bloom towards success. 

Furthermore, multilateral organizations should be given sufficient resources and attention so that they can carry out their processes smoothly and efficiently. States should properly acknowledge the presence of these organizations rather than taking their reforms lightly and constantly delaying action to ensure that they get enabled. 

Causing a revival of multilateral diplomacy needs a complete overturn of politics in existing and emerging powers of the world. Individuals with a vision and strong belief in the significance of multilateral diplomacy are what is needed the most by the world right now.

Arhum Naweed

Arhum Naweed is working on a Bachelors in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan. She is currently an intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad, Pakistan. Her areas of interest are contemporary global affairs, non-traditional security threats and peacebuilding measures.

One thought on “Multilateral Diplomacy And Pakistan – OpEd

  • August 2, 2023 at 12:39 am

    Although the article gives insightful textbook knowledge on Pakistan’s Multilateral Diplomacy. In light of the emphasis on the significance of multilateral diplomacy in the evolving era of globalisation, how do we address potential drawbacks and challenges such as inefficiency and bureaucratic complexity due to multiple states’ involvement?
    Further more the compromise of national sovereignty, the impact of power imbalances on negotiation outcomes, the lack of accountability and enforcement mechanisms, and the complexity of resolving deeply rooted historical grievances? Historically our dearest nation has suffered gravely to all metrics described above.
    How can we weigh these considerations against the benefits of multilateral diplomacy to promote comprehensive and effective international cooperation?


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