Diplomatic Immunity Is Not A Parlour Trick

Mar 8th, 2011 | By | Category: Jang, The News

An editorial in The News describes the Raymond Davis situation as a positive for Pakistan relations with the US as it demonstrates that we are standing up to a global power. But the editorial misses the point of international relations and actually makes Pakistan look foolish in the larger world community.

The short piece suggests correctly that the events are possibly reshaping the Arab world. But the authors then describe a world in which American spies are crawling through every nook and cranny of the world as “hit-men, manipulators, and subverters of government.” But The News fails to note that America was secretly backing the rebel leaders behind the uprising in Egypt.

The authors later use the example of British agents being sent packing from Libya. Again, however, The News misses the point of the British escapade. The British diplomat and his security team were going to Libya to help the rebels overthrow the Gaddafi regime, not support it. The mistake was not there going to Libya, but the way that they entered without coordination with the rebels or even their own Embassy.

Audio of a telephone conversation between the UK’s ambassador to Libya, Richard Northern, and a senior rebel leader was later leaked.

In it, Mr Northern suggested the SAS team had been detained due to a “misunderstanding”.

The rebel leader responded: “They made a big mistake, coming with a helicopter in an open area.”

Mr Northern said: “I didn’t know how they were coming.”

The SAS’s intervention allegedly angered Libyan opposition figures who ordered the armed and plain-clothes soldiers to be locked up on a military base.

Opponents of Col Gaddafi’s feared he could use any evidence of Western military interference to rally patriotic support for his regime.

I especially wanted to emphasize that last sentence because it should be compared to the way that Raymond Davis is being used as a bogey to rally extremists in the country. If the American agents are “subverters of government”, one has to ask which governments they are subverting in Egypt and Libya? Do we support the brutal regimes of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi just because they Americans are against them? Or if The News is against the regimes of Mubarak and Gaddafi, why are they not praising American help for the rebel forces in those countries?

Similarly, if Raymond Davis was tracking militants without the knowledge of our own security forces, that is a matter of inter-agency coordination that should be worked out between the intelligence agencies. But are we not glad that the Americans are helping in the fight against the terrorists? It was today in Faisalabad bombs have killed at least 25 innocent Pakistanis. Are we for the Taliban because the American was against them?

What should be most troubling to readers, however, is not The News‘s unfamiliarity with history and current events, but its utter lack of consideration for how international relations works when it concludes, “Diplomatic immunity? We won’t fall for that one again.”

This makes it sound as if diplomatic immunity and the Vienna Conventions were some sort of parlour trick played by a cunning and ruthless bandit to hood wink a simple-minded Pakistan. In reality, the Vienna Conventions were agreed to by powerful nations including our own in order to protect our own diplomats and agents. The News might make it seem as if America is unique in the reach of its spy agency. But let us not forget that our own ISI is consistently ranked as one of the largest and most influential in the world. Will we not want to have the diplomatic immunity card in our pocket in the future?

The US recently arrested and deported ten Russian spies that were living in their country. The US recognizes diplomatic immunity for those of nations that recognize the diplomatic immunity of American personnel also. The News suggests that ignoring our obligations under treaties is a position of strength. Actually, it is a position of weakness. Nations that are strong honour their commitments.

This blog does not take a position on whether or not Raymond Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity. That is for the Foreign Office to decide. But for a major newspaper to suggest that we only recognize our international agreements when we feel like it is wrong-minded and embarrassing.

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