Sherry Rehman: Tackling Insurgency IS Important for Our Foreign Policy

Sherry Rehman
October 10, 2013

Our foreign policy should be embedded closer to home, and in this context what really matters is the way we tackle the issue of insurgency and stave it off to create an atmosphere conducive to security and development.

These views were put forth by Sherry Rehman, former ambassador to the US and one of the leading journalists of the country, while speaking at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Monday evening.

She spoke of two imperatives in particular in this context: tackling insurgency, and our versatility on the home front.

As for insurgency, she said we’d have to adopt a more magnanimous view of things, and while we must employ the usual means of dealing with insurgencies, we must not close our eyes and doors to dialogue.

Regarding our versatility at home, she said we must come to grips with issues that created dissension at home, issues which kept the masses deprived, like poverty and energy woes. Most of all, she said, what mattered was how we related to our neighbours.

Rehman said the future of our foreign policy lay with the civil society rather than with the state. “Civil society may not have the official or executive power but it is a force to reckon with, as it is the barometer of the nation’s aspirations and desires. It has to be duly organised.”

Speaking of ties with India, she said, “The sentiment of change has not filtered in. It is a case of conditional diplomacy which narrows down the space.”

The ball, she said, was in India’s court; however, Pakistan could up the chances of mitigating the disconnect between the two countries.

Changes ahead, she said, were going to be difficult. “Containment and confrontation are not fit models for the future.” She stressed the indispensable need for dialogue and accommodation. Pakistan, she said, should move away from the 30-year-old concept of strategic depth in Afghanistan, adding that Pakistan was a latecomer to the talks with the Taliban.

“We have to look to our own interests. Financing Afghan stability should not be Pakistan’s responsibility,” said Rehman in an assertive tone.

She said Pakistan must not signal a preference for any particular party in Afghanistan. Our policy on terrorism, she said, must also include political reform.

As for insurgency in Balochistan, she said such situations were always tackled with the total involvement of the local police. Acknowledging that the US CIA’s drone attacks were counter-productive, she said our ties with the US would have to be long-term-based, beyond strategic considerations.

Economic factors like energy and trade would have to be the key factors, as in the present-day world, these are important determinants of foreign relations, she added.

PIIA Chairperson Dr Masooma Hassan wound up the programme with some very erudite, searching questions and thanking the speaker for her presence at the occasion.


Originally published by The International News.

Photo by South Asian Foreign Relations.


PN Member Sherry Rehman served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to United States from 2011 to 2013. Before her designation, she was Member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Pakistan from the Pakistan People’s Party for her second term. She served as Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pakistan (2008-09) and ranking member of the National Security Committee in the Parliament.

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