Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday defended the government’s foreign policy performance under his watch, saying the world was no longer “blindly” buying the Indian narrative due to Islamabad’s successful efforts to counter negative perceptions.
Addressing an event tiled ‘Vision FO’ in Islamabad, he said a Strategic Communications Division was set up at the Foreign Office to carry out narrative building to fight the “global battle of perception”.
Citing an example to highlight the importance of building a narrative, he said India had “cleverly and cunningly” given Kashmiris’ efforts for their right to self-determination the colour of terrorism. As a result of this narrative, he said, innocent Kashmiris were being accused of terrorism even though they were being oppressed, as was Pakistan.
“Unless we counter this narrative, our international image cannot be corrected. And you saw that through narrative building, Pakistan achieved success,” he noted.
Qureshi said Pakistan had been able to convince the world that it had lost 70,000 lives to terrorism and thus it didn’t merit being accused of sponsoring terrorism.
“Today the international press is not buying the Indian narrative blindly. They question [instead],” he said, adding that this “doubt” was created due to Pakistan’s counter-narrative.
The minister also said Pakistan was previously perceived as the “problem” for every roadblock in Afghanistan.
“Now, through successive narrative building, Pakistan is being viewed as the solution, not the problem. That’s the qualitative change that has come about.”
He said the world today was “recognising Pakistan’s role” in the Afghan peace process and observed that although Afghan peacemaker Abdullah Abdullah was “never very soft” on Pakistan in the past, his tone during his recent visit to Islamabad was also “very different”.
“The United States’ narrative [regarding Pakistan], at least on Afghanistan, is also very different today,” he added.
Qureshi said the FO had reached the conclusion that if it were to cope with the 21st-century diplomatic challenges, its “toolkit” would need to be updated, and for this measures were being taken to improve communications, coordination with various departments and specialisation at the foreign ministry.