Culture of optimism can empower Pakistan to meet challenges: Maleeha Lodhi

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 17 April, 2016

Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi said at a Pakistani students forum at Harvard University that it was important to create a culture of optimism in the country to empower it to meet its various challenges.

Speaking at the Harvard Pakistan Forum, she said that at a time when the country was making gains on the security and economic fronts the remaining challenges would best be met by an expression of national self confidence and self belief. “And this means adopting a positive outlook”, she added.

Although Dr Lodhi's talk was about Pakistan's role in international politics, she spoke at length about domestic issues particularly the demographic transition which, if managed well by investing in education, would enable the country to reap a demographic dividend.

Renowned historian Ayesha Jalal chaired the session and asked several questions about Pakistan's international role and its foreign policy strategy.

Ambassador Lodhi said that historically Pakistan has played an active and constructive role in addressing vital global issues – peace and security, development, and more recently climate change.

Pakistan's leading contribution to UN peacekeeping missions is universally acknowledged. Ambassador Lodhi said, "Our troops have served in 41 Missions in 23 countries since the early 1960s, and we deployed over 140,000 troops to UN Missions all over the world.” She explained that currently "We have over 7000 troops deployed in six UN Peacekeeping operations and have consistently been among the world’s top three troop contributing nations”.

Elaborating on Pakistan's role as an active participant, contributor and player at the international level, she said, Pakistan has served seven terms as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council – "an indicator of our role and contribution to the evolution of principles and norms of conflict prevention and resolution."

Pakistan has served thrice in the UN Human Rights Council established ten years ago. Pakistan also plays a major role in the Non-Aligned Movement, Group of 77 and the OIC.

An important example of the key role Pakistan played was during the country's Security Council membership in 2002 when the US sought international legitimization of its invasion of Iraq. Pakistan did not support any SC resolution by which the US and UK wanted to sanctify their military intervention. Pakistan upheld the principle of non-intervention and sovereignty of States despite the pressure exerted on it by the proponents of the Iraq invasion.

Dr Maleeha Lodhi said that Pakistan did not budge and no resolution was passed by a divided Council. Developments subsequently have only vindicated our stance, she added

The Pakistani envoy also described the current state of play in the region with both Afghanistan and India, which she said "represent our main external challenge today".

She presented a more positive outlook on the Western frontier and a less hopeful one on India.

Ambassador Lodhi said that for the past 14 years, a military solution to the conflict within Afghanistan has proved elusive.

"There is now a firm international consensus that a political solution is the only viable way to bring peace to Afghanistan." And she emphasised that this was what Pakistan has advocated and recommended for the past decade or more.

Stressing that a peace process will have to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, she said that Pakistan has sought to assist Kabul to put such a process in place.

It hosted the first direct talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban last July and has since continued its effort to revive this process.

Ambassador Lodhi said Islamabad played a key role in the decision reached by Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States to create a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), to provide decisive impetus to Afghanistan's peace efforts

She told the audience that the QCG has evolved a detailed roadmap for a workable peace and reconciliation process.

She expressed the hope that with this framework in place direct talks will resume sooner rather than later.