The then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, had made do with the appointment of Sartaj Aziz as his advisor of foreign affairs. He invited criticism from many who thought, wrongly, that the various setbacks Pakistan suffered on the foreign policy front in the last four years resulted from the government deciding not to have a full-fledged foreign minister. To that extent, the criticism should be laid to rest. But can Khawaja Asif, the former Defence Minister, change the course of our foreign policy in any significant way by coming over to the Foreign Ministry? That could be misplaced presumption too. Foreign policy is always the direct reflection of a country’s national interest, and therefore more or less immune to alteration by run-of-the-mill happenings on the external front. And who would know it better than Khawaja Asif. Having been the top man at the Ministry of Defence, he is expected to know better than many where the key lies that can open new doors. It is enigmatic what prompted Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi to replace Sartaj Aziz for just 45 days. Perhaps the new prime minister’s headache was where to fit the equal-ranking Khawaja Asif, and treated the discomfort by giving him this critical portfolio. In Khawaja Asif’s maiden press conference as foreign minister on Sunday there was no news-breaking revelation, nor was he expected to jump the gun even before being on terra firma.
Narendra Modi is the all-powerful prime minister of India, who has set about converting his country into a Hindutva-empowered state in which non-Hindus would have little or no place. And in that he finds that his anti-Pakistan stances of great political help, both at the national and international levels – at the national level because he seeks to promote Hindutva, and at the international level because India is one of the powers keen to checkmate China’s rising stature in the region. He would therefore be the last person to heed Khawaja Asif’s call on Sunday to reciprocate the peace moves Pakistan has been making, particularly over the last couple of years. Narendra Modi is power-intoxicated, and the more he gets drunk the more with power, aggressive he is likely to be. The only antidote to his malady is a display of matching power, and he knows it well. His generals are no more talking of Cold Start and Limited War. A wider conflict being no more its agenda, India is now working against Pakistan, surreptitiously though, through hired guns and via proxies. On the Kashmir front, India is portraying its brutal occupation as defence against what it calls Pakistan-assisted terrorism. And using that pretext as cover, it keeps pounding civilian populations across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary. Narendra Modi has not just threatened but is actually working on projects to turn Pakistan into desert by damming up water flows into this country. It is doubtful that the World Bank is interested anymore in seeking fuller implementation of the Indus Water Treaty. Pakistan has got to be prepared for the eventuality, essentially by keeping its own house in order. India is also trying to undermine Pakistan’s position on the western border by using Kabul as cat’s paw. That being the backdrop as the country approaching its seventieth Independence anniversary, Pakistanis wish the new foreign minister Godspeed.