Takeaways from Imran Khan’s UNGA Speech

It has been more than a month since the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan virtually addressed the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The speech dealt with a variety of issues including climate change, money laundering, growing Islamophobia, and how his government dealt, and is dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. Interestingly, the discussion around climate change can be seen in relation to our policies taking a gradual shift from an extremely fixated framework around traditional threats to a rather flexible one. However, it is pertinent to highlight that the major portion of the address was focused on discussing the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the atrocities committed by India’s Hindu nationalist government. Whereas, towards the end of his speech, he reiterated the country’s continued desire of achieving peace in the region, and of earnestly supporting a politically driven solution in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s unchanged position on the Palestine issue also reinforced its support to the two-state solution, which debunks the claims that were being made by many analysts concerning the recognition of Israel.

As historical patterns indicate, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir acts as a catalyst to upset regional stability. However, the question remains, will these diplomatic victories lead to any policy shifts?

It is evident that Pakistan will up the ante diplomatically, and bring to attention Modi’s missteps in the valley of Kashmir. Imran Khan blatantly critiqued India on its policies in Kashmir, and the ill-treatment given to the religious minorities including Muslims. He described how India is persecuting its religious minorities and tried drawing attention of the international community to take notice of; “these grave violations and prosecute the Indian civil and military personnel involved in state terrorism and serious crimes against humanity, being perpetrated with complete impunity”, and India’s outright disregard of the resolutions provided by the Security Council and how it continues to violate the principles set under the domain of international law. The argument was further backed by mentioning India’s policy of changing the demographic structure of Kashmir, which can be seen as “an attempt to obliterate the distinct Kashmiri identity to affect the outcome of a plebiscite envisaged in the UN Security Council resolutions.” Pakistan’s bid to internationalise the issue involves briefing the global actors on the human rights violations that are taking place under Modi’s watch. As historical patterns indicate, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir acts as a catalyst to upset regional stability. However, the question remains, will these diplomatic victories lead to any policy shifts? So far, the diplomatic support from different quarters remain lukewarm, it is yet to be seen if the world will come to acknowledge the issue as a threat to peace and stability or not.

On the other hand, his comments with regards to the Afghan peace process, reiterate Pakistan’s long-held stance on achieving peace in Afghanistan through dialogue. It is apparent that Pakistan will keep reminding the world of its facilitation in restoring peace within Afghanistan. He referred to the process as a “historic opportunity” for the Afghan leaders to restore peace in the country and “work out an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.” Pakistan has been committed to supporting Afghans to distance itself from the allegations of Islamabad’s support to the Taliban. An opportunity that was skillfully availed by the premier to signify this detachment, as the country treads the path of improving its relations with the United States (US) and Afghanistan. Besides, Imran Khan has already opined in his writing for The Washington Post, the relevance of restoring peace in Afghanistan, and how it aids Pakistan’s vision of economic integration and regional connectivity.

The explanation of the rampant majoritarian wave within India might have done little in shaking the world’s conscience. In relation, Pakistan’s approach to the Palestine issue is nothing more than that of a bystander.

Raising the Palestine issue at the UN was instructive in relation to the recently reached Arab-Israeli rapprochement. Imran Khan maintained the country’s long-held stance of supporting a two-state solution that is in conjunction with the UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. Also, recognising Israel would jeopardise Pakistan’s stance on Jammu and Kashmir.

The speech clearly articulated the country’s foreign policy agenda, wherein the discussion of India’s actions in Kashmir holds a considerable chunk. The address was no different than the one made in the 74th session in 2019, as the speech dealt with similar themes. It was indeed an accurate move to inform the world of Pakistan’s commitment to restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. The explanation of the rampant majoritarian wave within India might have done little in shaking the world’s conscience. In relation, Pakistan’s approach to the Palestine issue is nothing more than that of a bystander. Maybe the world sees through the conundrum in which Pakistan is trapped. Lastly, without robust lobbying, the impact of such speeches remains limited.

Saman Rizwan

Saman Rizwan

Saman Rizwan is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research.

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