Pakistan Needs Introspection Over India's Growing Stature Among Gulf States: Amb Munir Akram

Pakistan's permanent representative to UN refutes inferences of Islamabad's international isolation, says adding more permanent members to Security Council is no solution to UN's paralysis, but a proposal by Pakistan could offer a way forward

Pakistan Needs Introspection Over India's Growing Stature Among Gulf States: Amb Munir Akram

Pakistan is not isolated on the international stage, given its leading several key efforts at the United Nations level. However, there is a need for introspection and efforts to make Pakistan an attractive market with a stable economy that other countries look up to and want to do business with.

Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Munir Akram, stated this in an exclusive interview with Raza Rumi on New Wave Global.

The interview touched upon many topics, including the dysfunction and paralysis of the global body, the United Nations, Palestine, Jammu and Kashmir, India, climate change, and Pakistan's diplomacy on the world stage.

Pakistan isolated?

Ambassador Akram, who was singled out for praise by the Palestinian delegation in helping draft resolutions which met with approval from a majority of states in the United Nations General Assembly on the ongoing Middle East conflict, refuted the suggestion that Pakistan has faced isolation at the global level.

"Pakistan is not isolated. Far from it, especially if you look at the United Nations," he said.

Ambassador Akram counted off how Pakistan has twice helmed the Group of 77, has been elected to the security council as a non-permanent member seven times and is poised to return to the security council since it is expecting to be elected unopposed for an eighth-term in June; Pakistan has also held the presidency of the Economic and Social Council six times. 

"We are leading the group of like-minded countries negotiating the Summit of the Future," he said, adding that they are also helping the Secretary-General formulate various plans.

"I meet him every second week," Amb Akram said, adding that UN Secertary-General Antonio Guterres rushed to Pakistan in the aftermath of the 2022 floods and helped mobilise over $10 billion in reconstruction funds for Pakistan.

"The UN General Assembly passed a unanimous resolution expressing solidarity and support for Pakistan in the wake of that disaster," he said.

"We are respected by the East, by the West, by the North, and by the South," he said, adding that Pakistan enjoys good relations with every delegation in the United Nations.

Indian stature in Gulf and introspection

Asked about India's growing stature among Middle Eastern countries, especially in some countries that are seen as long-time allies of Pakistan, Ambassador Akram said that is a natural consequence and does not have any direct impact on the relations these countries have with Pakistan.

"Our relations with Gulf states remain solid. We have bonds of faith, culture, and belief that override other considerations," he said, adding that there is perhaps a need for empathy in Islamabad. 

"We must see it from their point of view. India is a large country. India is one of the largest importers of oil. India is a large market, perhaps the largest market for some of them, and the second largest for some others."

He noted that the major product of Gulf states is oil, and with India and China amongst the biggest markets in the world, these states have a compulsion to sell their product. 

"Looking at it from their point of view, they have to have a relationship that is good [with India]," he said, adding that having good relations with New Delhi is in their national interests.

"We have to understand that and understand their compulsion. They are not developing their relationship with India to spite Pakistan or denigrate Pakistan. They are doing it in their national interest."

On the other hand, he had advice for Islamabad on a way forward.

"What we should be doing is developing our economy and our markets so that we are also an attractive place to do business and can balance what the Indians are doing."

He said that Pakistan must look at it introspectively in terms of how it can make itself attractive to a third country, not just to the Gulf but to the entire world. 

"We should be an attractive market, a stable economy, and a strong country that people look up to, respect, and want to have good relations with."

Paralysed UN

Ambassador Akram, who has not only represented Pakistan in the global body but has also been at the forefront of the diplomatic front for the Palestinian cause, noted that the UN currently experiences paralysis.

This paralysis, he explained, stemmed from the veto power enjoyed by its five permanent members. These members prevent interventions in cases where gross human rights violations are underway. A prime example of this is in Palestine. 

He highlighted the need for reforms in the Security Council.

"The UN Security Council is no longer representative of the broader membership of the United Nations," he said, explaining that when the global body began, it did so with 55 members, and today it has 193 members.

"Broad membership requires broader representation," he said. 

He said that to address this, some have suggested expanding the number of permanent members with veto powers.

"[This] is not a solution in my view," Ambassador Akram said, adding that the paralysis of the security council is not related to representation on it but rather to the veto power of the five permanent members.

"So long as that veto power is there, adding more permanent members would only multiply the possibilities of paralysis," he said, explaining that having 12 vetos would make a paralysis more probable as each of those countries would have their interests and would exercise their right in that respect, making the council ineffective.

Instead, he said that Pakistan has proposed forming a coalition with Italy called "Uniting for Consensus."

"The council should only expand into the non-permanent members," he said, noting that 11 to 12 non-permanent members need to be added to the current 15. These members should comprise mostly small and medium-sized countries, which comprise a majority of the United Nations.

On countering the veto, he said the only way is to empower the non-permanent members to have the ability to block decisions. 

"If there is a larger membership of 27 members in the security council, which we have proposed, and a majority is required for passing resolutions, or 16 to 17 votes, most of those 16 to 17 votes will be from smaller countries, and they will therefore have a countervailing power vis the permanent members. That is the way in which the influence of the permanent members could be diluted, and the ability of the larger membership of the UN be able to influence decisions could be enhanced."

Pakistan and Palestine

Ambassador Akram said Pakistan was created as a consequence of the principle of self-determination since it is the precursor for any nation having fundamental rights. Pakistan's position on Palestine, he said, was an extension of that principle.

Pakistan, he said, asks for the state that Palestinians were promised in 1947, before it was truncated by the Nakba, as per UN resolution 181.  

It is also the same principle that guides Pakistan's view on Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the view of many other states that gained independence from colonial masters, like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, etc.

Asked whether Pakistan's acceptance of the state of Israel would have granted it any leverage to intervene in the situation, Ambassador Akram transposed the question to how the current impasse is playing out between Israel's largest benefactor, the US because an extremist government is in charge in Tel Aviv.

He said that Pakistan has consistently sought the right of self-determination for the people of Palestine since the nation's birth and from its induction into the United Nations. 

Ambassador Akram said that Pakistan is fast on its demands for a two-state solution, which was promised in resolution 181 of the UN General Assembly and which is supported by the entire international community except for the extremists governing Israel.

On recognising Israel, Ambassador Akram said that first, they have to solve the question of justice and equity in Palestine.

"So long as Israel is occupying Palestine and suppressing the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people and Pakistan being committed to self-determination globally, not only for Palestine, not only for Kashmir, we have supported this principle in Algeria, in Morocco, in Tunisia and all the countries that emerged out of colonialism, Pakistan was a flagbearer of the principle of self-determination. Therefore, based on justice or equity, Pakistan should not allow its principle to be compromised by the power of the influence that Israel wields in the world because it is an unjust occupation of Palestine," he said.

However, once the Palestinian issue is resolved, the Palestinian people will be allowed to have their right to self-determination in a state of their own once they normalise relations with the Palestinians, with Arabs and with other countries; that would be a time for Pakistan to consider whether Israel has got sufficient legitimacy to deserve recognition.

Jammu and Kashmir

On Jammu and Kashmir, Ambassador Akram reiterated that Pakistan has a principled stance to uphold the right to self-determination.

However, he noted that while that principle echoes in the United Nations charter, the UN is handicapped in enforcing those principles because it does not have an army. Together with its members, it can take certain forceful actions either in self-defence or through the collection decision of the security council to enforce a particular measure. Pakistan, he said, could try and convince the security council to collectively decide on enforcement action against powerful armies, such as Israel and India. Still, it will not be simple and would pose a challenge.

Secondary enforcement measures, such as economic sanctions, boycotts, trade embargoes, and exceptions from international bodies, can be used to persuade countries to conform to international consensus.

He said this sometimes works, as seen in the case of apartheid South Africa.

However, with the revocation of Article 370, Ambassador Akram was asked how much space he thinks there is for talks with India on the matter.

Dialogue should never be refused, he said, noting that the government led by Narendra Modi has adopted an exclusionary ideology which borders on fascism and a very aggressive posture towards Kashmiris, towards Pakistan and its sizeable Muslim minority.

"If there is an opening for dialogue, we should have dialogue. But dialogue should be directed towards redressing injustice and establishing the basis on which a just solution can be found for Jammu and Kashmir, a basis on which Pakistan is not  threatened by the use of force as we are being threatened, a basis for justice for the 200 million Muslims of India."