Qureshi’s Gaffe On Iran Angers Turkey, Reveals Internal Policy Rifts
What Pakistan’s ace foreign minister forgets is that his logic can be used against Pakistan—his American friends say India is not a threat, so why the Pakistani nukes?
BY AHMED QURAISHI | Wednesday, 27 October 2010.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—With one shot, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi managed to alienate Turkey and Iran and give Washington a major Pakistani concession—for free.
In Washington before the start of Pak-US Strategic Dialogue, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told American academics Iran did not need a nuclear program and that he would like to see Tehran follow US opinion on this issue.
The statement strengthens the hands of skeptics in Tehran who have long been arguing that covert CIA terror acts inside Iran, including actions by a group named Jundullah, are launched from Pakistani soil with Islamabad’s consent.
Qureshi’s statement is a rare glimpse into the simmering internal rifts in Islamabad between a pro-US camp and what is emerging as a pro-Pakistan camp, made up of those officials inside the Pakistani political establishment who are nationalists and believe in an independent foreign policy.
The pro-US camp in Islamabad has never been stronger, and enjoys more power after the US- and UK-brokered deal in 2006-7 that allowed a pro-American political coalition to come to power in Pakistan.
Urdu-language Jang newspaper reported that Iran’s envoy Mashallah Shakeri met President Zardari last week and conveyed to him Iran’s reservations on Mr. Qureshi’s statement.
The Iranians are not alone. Turkish diplomats in the Pakistani capital are also disillusioned. “They [Pakistan foreign office officials] told us Pakistan supports Turkey’s initiative to recognize Iran’s right to have a civil nuclear program,” a Turkish journalist told PakNationalists.com citing Turkish diplomatic sources. “And then comes this statement. What is Pakistan’s real policy?”
Sources confirm that Pakistan Foreign Office was taken aback at Foreign Minister Qureshi’s statement. It is true that Iran and Pakistan did not have the best of relations since a revolutionary religious government seized power in Tehran in 1979 and began meddling in Pakistan and its other neighbors. Yet Mr. Qureshi’s statement is farfetched. It contradicts Pakistani official position from a number of different angles:
- What about Pakistan’s commitments to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was in Islamabad a few days ago and that they supported Turkey’s initiative to allow Iran the right to civil nuclear technology?
- What about the gas pipeline project with Iran? Is this statement the right way of dealing with a country as an energy source?
- What about Iran itself, a country with whom we have a difficult relationship already?
- The best part is that Mr. Foreign Minister’s logic can be used against Pakistan itself. We insist our nukes are for self-defense. But US officials and many of their stooges in Islamabad believe we don’t face a threat from India and hence Pakistan does not need nuclear weapons or a nuclear program.
- The fifth important point is this: Why follow the American line on Iran and give Washington this concession for free without even asking for anything in return?
Are Mr. Qureshi and his government following the American foreign policy in letter and spirit? Or do they have something called a Pakistani foreign policy?
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