hrk-clinton-AP-670
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, shakes hands with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. — Photo by AP

BRUSSELS:  Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s impressive and gruelling two-day effort to make friends and influence European and Nato policymakers has resulted in a wave of strong pro-Pakistan rhetoric from the likes of Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general.

But talk — although diplomats, including the very articulate Ms Rabbani, clearly thrive on it — is not enough.

What the EU and Nato want from Pakistan are good policies and determined action in areas as varied as relations with Afghanistan, Pakistan-India ties and domestic policies which protect human rights and help combat extremism, discrimination and religious persecution.

While she may have succeeded in injecting some much-needed life into EU-Pakistan relations and helped to stabilise Islamabad’s often volatile relationship with Nato, building stronger ties with both organisations will require more time, effort and hard work.

The outlook is improving. Pakistan is certainly moving up the EU agenda and Nato also has no doubts that Islamabad cannot be ignored or sidelined in the run-up to 2014 and the drawdown of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

In talks in Brussels, Ms Rabbani heard EU foreign policy chief Ashton describe Pakistan as a “significant country in the region” which acts for peace and stability in the region.

Nato’s Rasmussen recognised that “Pakistan has paid a high price” in fighting terrorism, adding: “The alliance stands together with you to combat this scourge.”

Nato has also promised to turn its relationship with Pakistan into a strategic partnership and promised that the alliance will not leave a “security vacuum” in the country after the withdrawal of its troops.

Ms Rabbani and Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani engaged in a skilful — and consistent — double act. They both met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — but respecting the EU’s preference for high-level contacts with Pakistan’s civilian leaders rather than military men, they went their separate ways in talks with the EU.

While the foreign minister was busy trying to convince the EU and Nato that Pakistan was a force for good by pointing to efforts Pakistan was making to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, Gen Kayani was giving the same message to a joint meeting of the Political and Security Council and the European Union (EU) Military Committee in Brussels.

Pakistan’s military-civilian joint act on Afghanistan probably did reassure both the EU and Nato which have often voiced concern at the apparent discord between the two institutions.

While the focus on Afghanistan appears to have been a major objective of the Rabbani-Kayani “charm offensive” in Brussels, trade access to the EU market was also an important part of the foreign minister’s talks with the EU.

The quest for elusive GSP Plus status — which will allow duty-free entry into the European single market — is a key priority for Pakistan which rightly argues that more trade will help generate jobs in the country.

The way ahead is not certain, however. The Eurozone crisis may make Europe’s textile producing nations including Portugal, Italy and Greece, even more reluctant to give additional concessions to rival textile makers.

Meeting the regime’s tough criteria as regards human rights and labour standards will also be difficult.

It’s worth trying, however. And Ms Rabbani certainly did due diligence by engaging not only with Ashton but also EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht as well as the European Parliament which will have a key role to play in the final decision on Pakistan’s application for GSP Plus.

The European Parliament, however, remains a hard nut to crack. As the only democratically-elected EU institution, its members keep a sharp eye on human rights developments in Pakistan and other countries.

Ms Rabbani faced a barrage of questions from EP members on questions as different as Malala Yousufzai, the treatment of Ahmadis, relations with India and with Afghanistan and upcoming elections in Pakistan.

Her answers — or most of them — appear to have satisfied many of those in the room. But the Parliament’s scrutiny of Pakistan — and other countries — is unrelenting.

If Pakistan is serious about securing better trade access and changing its image as troublemaker in the region — especially in Afghanistan — one visit by an articulate and politely argumentative foreign minister will not be enough.  Serious work lies ahead.


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Comments (23) (Closed)


Cyrus Howell
Dec 05, 2012 11:39am
All the ministers and directors look good hugging each other, shaking hands, smiling and having photos taken. This is public and media relations convincing citizens that everything is going according to plan.
Shahid
Dec 05, 2012 03:48pm
There is no doubt Hina Rabbani Khar is doing is great job, keep it up girl you are doing a fine job.
Muhammad
Dec 05, 2012 02:46pm
Simple prejudice!
Raja Anwar
Dec 05, 2012 01:17pm
I guess, this is enough for Ms HRK and Kiyani, both only -one is an aspiring stateswoman the other one is on extension!!
sfk
Dec 05, 2012 08:32am
Ahh, the indians, always "acting" like innocents!!!
Sajjad
Dec 05, 2012 03:20pm
Common Yaar Arun. Why are you trying to inject a totally unrelated topic. Please stay on the topic next time........
Vijay
Dec 05, 2012 01:50pm
Don't worry no one will escape,eventually every one will be caught and punished according to law.Truth ever wins.
Muhammad
Dec 05, 2012 02:48pm
Dararao, you are getting emotional.
Ara
Dec 05, 2012 09:47am
Where did the Mumbai attack come into this from?
Muhammad
Dec 05, 2012 02:45pm
Spokesperson is a minor factor. What Pakistan needs is well-thought-over policy, whether domestic or foreign. There seems to be no political person in any party in Pakistan who may have enough vision, wisdom, and sincerity of purpose, to manage the national affairs. Considering what is going on, there is no hope.
ProsNcons FactsNfiction
Dec 05, 2012 03:29pm
This is all to folks of Indian subcontinent please try to get out from your peculiar way of thinking what she is wearing and what she is not. Pakistan should be proud of Hina RabbanI Khar impressive and gifted personality as Foreign Minister of Pakistan. Look around and compare Indian subcontinent when it comes to women personality in Politics. Indian subcontinent as a whole should be appreciating women in the government cabinet rather than discouraging educated and elite women in government cabinet. How many of you ever saw Americans criticizing Sec. of State Madam Hillary Clinton for what she is wearing. Just for once try to come out from your peculiar mentality and short sighted.
Cyrus Howell
Dec 05, 2012 11:40am
India is not in the EU.
dararao
Dec 05, 2012 10:41am
What about terrorist activities in Baluchistan as also disclosed by wikileaks that India is behind such activities. Chnage your attitude also otherwise you will also remain one of the poorest nations in world. and at the end of the day you will be the biggest loser.
Circumbulator
Dec 05, 2012 07:47am
We need more than an articulate and expensively decked out spokesperson. Someone representing one of the poorest country in the world cannot in all earnest convince me with her Kelly bag, her oversized Doce Gabban sunglasses, and her Mikimoto pearls of her sincerity, its too fake. Besides we need an experienced, educated and intelligent spokesperson at this critical stage of our life.
syed baqar ahsan
Dec 05, 2012 10:16am
In diplomacy what you wear and whom you are representing matters,in foreign office,in int set ups,ministry for over seas Pakistanis, we do not have professional section consisting of expert advisers on protocol/ manner/gesture ,psychologist to brief our leaders/people how behave,act,pose,dress up when interacting while outside.Our FM must stop this show off or leave the job
Arun
Dec 05, 2012 05:55am
No questions about prosecuting those who were the kingpins of the Mumbai attack. Sad that the EU and US have forgotten this. The biggest loser of all, in the long run, will be Pakistan.
PAATCHU
Dec 05, 2012 04:36pm
Stop dreaming about india and it's gestures!..Start thinking about your own country first dear day dreamer!!.
PAATCHU
Dec 05, 2012 04:40pm
So you should not ask questions on Afghanistan.Since it's also not a member of EU
Ramlal
Dec 05, 2012 06:44pm
So be it!!
Sauron
Dec 05, 2012 07:05pm
One of the Poorest nations in the world?? Where do you check your figures? In the Top 5 in purchasing power parity and one of the biggest economies in the world. You probably meant that there are poor in India...yes, we have our challenges and also have a history of successfully facing them.
MOHAMMAD
Dec 06, 2012 02:02am
nice to read. But we need practical efforts to develop the country economically also. We can do that by asking EU for latest civil nuclear technology.
ThePatriot
Dec 06, 2012 04:39am
this is typical SEA mentality. we think the more articulate the leader,the better the decisions.nothing is further than the truth.
ali
Dec 06, 2012 05:03am
Pakistan is fighting to enter the EU market where everybody else is also trying to enter,and With many countries of Europe not in good shape entering Europe at this time will be a hard sell,, Pakistan should also tap the vast markets of South America.