Opening a discussion on ‘The State of Global Power Politics: Where’s the World Headed?’ at the Lahore Literary Festival on Saturday, diplomat and writer Maleeha Lodhi said the post-World War Two multilateralism is under stress, unilateralism is being perpetuated and there is a cooperation gap and absence of global leadership.

She also mentioned competition between big powers such as China and the US in terms of the digital bifurcation in the tech world.

Adding to this, the other panelist, international history professor and author Marc Baer, mentioned the environmental crisis and a lack of global leadership towards the issue. Talking about the Ukraine-Russia war, he said a dictator had invaded a democracy, adding the Russian president’s purpose was that Ukraine never exists again. “It’s bigger than a military invasion.”

He also highlighted that Nato should have been disbanded post the German reunification in 1990-91, adding Putin had been waging wars for 20 years, mentioning the Crimea, Georgia, Syria, Chechnya attacks.

Moving to the Afghan humanitarian crisis, Ms Lodhi questioned if the Taliban had changed and can stabilise in the long run. “Pakistan remains concerned over the security threats from militant groups harboured there. The principal reason Taliban haven’t yet been recognised by any country is the world wants the Taliban to live up to the promises made in terms of dismantling terror networks there, as further instability there can have global ramifications.”

Baer added the Afghan crisis couldn’t be solved or imposed by foreigners, but they “can indeed help the humanitarian situation”.

The discussion then veered towards the Covid pandemic and how international leaders resorted to vaccine nationalism instead of cooperating on a global level. The role and efficacy, or lack thereof, of the UN was also discussed.

About the rise of China as an economic power, Ms Lodhi called it extraordinary. The last thing, she said, Pakistan wants is turbulence in its ties with both Beijing and Washington, so the US would need to manage not try to avoid it because China’s rise can’t be ignored.

To a question about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow a day before Russia invaded Ukraine, she said once Mr Khan was there it was important to take a principled stand, not go soft on Russia, and mitigate the fallout of the meeting, but that wasn’t seen. She identified four foreign policy areas Pakistan has to navigate – the US-China confrontation, troubled ties with India and how to manage the tension, security implications of the Afghan crisis, and very carefully balance the relations with regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“We usually resort to crisis management rather than thinking long term, especially in terms of economy; we believe in borrowing rather than dealing with structural issues. The education deficit also haunts Pakistan that leads to extremism and population rise.”

Fusion cookbook: In another session, Washington DC-based Pakistani blogger-turned author, Shaziah Zuberi, took the audience through her journey of compiling her first cookbook of fusion recipes incorporating her roots with her new home, travels around the world, multicultural exposure, and friends from various cultural backgrounds.The inspiration, she said, came from her life in the US where she visited parks, farmers markets, grocery stores.

The book,A Taste of Pakistan in Fusion, took her three years to put together, as she said “innovative recipes” take time and effort.A home-cook with no formal training but her mother’s guidance, Shaziah started blogging about food and recipes as a passion, finding it therapeutic, and taking all the photos and videos herself. “I keep innovating and like challenging myself in the kitchen,” having experimented as a child, played sports and acted in plays.

Her favourite ingredient was herbs, while she loves the Harrisa Chicken recipe from her book, calling it “practical, lifesaver, and easy to make”. She loves Peruvian cuisine, which has a lot of fusion and uses herbs. Some of her fusion recipes from the book she talked about were Salmon Koftas; Beef Chappli Kabab with Quinoa; Carrot Soup with Amarnath; Shami Kabab with Avocado; Baked Kofta Cake with bay leaves and black cardamom with spicy sauce; Seafood Paella with Basmati Rice and Soybeans; Aloo ki Tehri with Collard Greens; Cauliflower Pizza; and Fig Saffron Kheer with Green Cardamom.

An objective of writing the book, she said, was exploring multicultural societies and respecting Pakistani heritage. It represents her past and present, life growing up in Karachi, favourite food, lessons from her mother, who told her to “practice cooking with a sense of joy”.

On why fusion recipes, Shaziah said fusion cooking is the foundation of modern cooking, honours other cultures and traditions, helps explore ingredients, build bridges and deepen relationships.“My recipes are rich in spices, innovative, and nutritious.”

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2022

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