The latest meeting by the National Security Council (on 29 September, Friday) seems to have discussed Afghanistan and J&K, besides other issues. The backdrop for this meeting is important. Starting with Trump’s new Afghan strategy, to the recent addresses/statements/responses in the United Nations by Pakistan’s Prime Minister and the Special Representative Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, there have been numerous developments at the international level for Pakistan.
The NSC should have discussed the recent visit of Khawaja Muhammad Asif to the US, where he met numerous officials and addressed think tanks. He should have briefed the NSC about his discussions and the new American positions on the region. Though few statements made by Asif in the US about “Pakistan’s Liabilities” (referring to Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkar-e-Toiba) have created a stir within, his visit was well coordinated and exploratory to read the American minds, before Pakistan finalise the next steps towards its eastern and western neighbours. According to a report, the NSC considers Kashmir and Afghanistan among the cardinal points of Pakistan’s foreign policy and there can be no external pressure.
Perhaps the focal point of the NSC meeting should have been the proposed visit of the Foreign Minister in early October to meet Rex Tillerson. The meeting was scheduled in September and was postponed. The NSC wants to prepare for this crucial meeting, as it would place a substantial pressure on Pakistan by the US on do’s and don’ts. Khwaja’s September visit to the US is a curtain raiser and feel the American pulse on various issues.
The NSC though includes the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Foreign Minister, is dominated by the Establishment through the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Airforce Staffs. The fact that the NSC had discussed the above issues would underline that the Establishment and not the offices of the Prime Minister and Foreign ministry lead the policy towards Pakistan’s neighbours.
A series of meetings on Afghanistan and with Afghans, along with a “Special Envoy on Kashmir” are likely to be Pakistan’s responses. The first will be aimed at appeasing the Americans in Afghanistan, and the second will try to present the Pakistani case on Kashmir and "internationalise" the issue.