I am frequently perplexed by the complexity of foreign affairs. The more I study it, and I’m sure the same is true for you, the more I find that I am frustrated by the rafts of unacknowledged hypocrisies, double standards and such, that seem to proliferate government institutions and inter-governmental and inter-national relations.
Reading this article from IRIN Asia, my confusion was once again piqued by one sentence. “A new transit agreement, signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan in July, allows Afghan traders to export local agricultural produce by road to Indian markets.” This confused me, because everything that I’ve been seeing lately about the relationship between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (specifically, the latter relationship) is negative, and very sabre-rattling. Why, I thought upon reading that, would the Pakistanis want to make a deal like that with the Indians? I offered my confusion to a friend, who pointed me to this post at Abu Muqawama. I instantly spotted the reason why he’d suggested it: “what’s in the interests of the country isn’t always in the interest of the people that run it.”
When thinking about international relations, the reasons behind government actions are not always clear cut. “What’s in the interests of the country isn’t always in the interest of the people that run it.” You could of course extend that to “what’s in the interests of the people who run the country isn’t always in the interest of the people who live in it.” Or any number of permutations.
We shouldn’t be surprised, or confused, when we see news like this coming out of Afghanistan, or any other country in central Asia.
What’s to be done about this? I don’t think that there is much that we can do about geo-political complexity. It simply serves as a talking point, a jumping off point, a start, for the development of foreign policy, and the running of operations tied to those policies. It is frustrating. And I think that it’s these complexities, or perceived complexities, that put many people off of politics and international relations. This is a bad thing, I think. Because it’s important for a populace to be engaged with its leaders’ policies, to understand them, and to question them.
So perhaps that is all that we can do. Question the edicts and decisions that are made, for consensus is a powerful tool (unless you’re the UN but that’s a little too far off-topic, I think). How can we make consensus in the modern world? And, until then, what can be done to mitigate the double standards and confusing inter-national policies of the global environment?