UNITED NATIONS: When some 146 world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, they are expected to discuss issues of international peace and security as several conflicts from Syria to Yemen rage on, defying any resolution.

The Pakistani delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who arrives in New York, which houses the UN headquarters, from Washington on Sunday night. It will be the new Pakistani government’s first senior level interaction with the United Nations.

Take a look: Pakistan won’t abandon peace efforts, says Qureshi

However, the much-heralded India-Pakistan foreign ministers’ meeting was called off by New Delhi citing an incident in occupied Kashmir.

According to Pakistani officials, a busy programme awaits the foreign minister who will attend at least 40 events and hold about two dozen bilateral meetings.

The highlight of his visit will, of course, be his speech in the General Assembly on Sept 29 in which he will set out the new government’s priorities and its position and policy on key international and regional issues including the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the light of UN Human Rights Council’s report which has cited India of violations. New Delhi bristles at the mention of occupied Kashmir and human rights violations there.

Pakistan’s foreign minister is expected to deliver his speech in Urdu language.

Daunting challenge

This year, the diplomats here say, the big and daunting challenge that looms over the gathering is actually one of the world leaders: US President Donald Trump.

It is a known fact that US President Trump is not a fan of the UN. In the past, he has criticised the UN calling it a club of sorts. And he has also proposed steep cuts to US funding for the UN that the world body has said would make it impossible for the organisation to maintain its essential operations.

The US is the biggest financial contributor to the UN in the world and its most important player when it comes to decision-making on issues ranging from food aid to peacekeeping to nuclear non-proliferation.

So now all eyes are on President Trump, who will preside over a UN Security Council meeting which is going to focus on the Middle East, and Iran in particular.

The big question baffling the world leaders is: will President Trump behave like past American presidents have and speak in measured tones about the need for global cooperation on various fronts, diplomats here say.

Or will he try to break things — degrade the UN, issue threats to other countries, and propose actions that suggest the US wants to go it alone.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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