Ambassador Munir Akram never intended to end up a diplomat.
“Diplomacy, as far as I’m concerned, was an accident. I was a farmer,” Akram said at a crowded Saybrook College Master’s Tea Tuesday.
Akram, the permanent representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, discussed his life, the United Nations and India’s relationship with Pakistan. Approximately 50 students attended the tea, which was sponsored by Yalies for Pakistan.
Akram has been serving his native country as a diplomat for nearly four decades, having entered Pakistan’s foreign service in 1968. He has been Pakistan’s U.N. representative since 2002, when Pakistan was elected to a seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Saying that at his job there has “never a dull moment,” Akram described Pakistan’s foreign policy as “360-degree,” with things constantly happening on all the country’s borders.
“I can’t even begin to tell you the excitement of being a diplomat for a country like Pakistan,” Akram said.
Terrorism and security were two major focuses of the Master’s Tea. Akram addressed terrorism’s transition from local attacks to global attacks and America’s current foreign policy actions from an international perspective.
“After Sept. 11, the whole world changed,” Akram said. “Sept. 11 transformed the way the United States thought about terrorism.”
Akram also commented on the current instability of occupied Iraq.
“No credible or alternative ruling structure has been put in place,” he said.
Akram waved off debate over the legality of the Bush administration’s concept of preemptive war, which he said is now “academic” because the events are in the past.
Akram addressed the difficulties of diplomacy in a United Nations dominated by a lone superpower. He said conflicts within the Security Council have increased as the effects of the Bush administration’s policies have begun to resonate with the international community. He said he thinks the administration’s knowledge of its power led to its policy in Iraq.
“It became convinced that it could impose its will,” Akram said.
But Akram said interdependency among the Security Council members often frustrates the Bush administration’s unilateralism.
Akram also addressed the ongoing conflict between his homeland of Pakistan and neighboring India. A student asked Akram for his views on the conflict, citing a belief that relations between the two states had recently begun to improve.
“I wish that it was so,” Akram said.
Despite his expressed disappointment in the current leadership in India, Akram claimed he remains hopeful for the conflict’s eventual resolution through continued dialogue between the two nations.
“In the long term, [peace] is inevitable,” he said. “The essence of diplomacy is to talk.”
Evelyn Tang ’07 said she came to the talk because she wanted an insider’s perspective on the workings of the United Nations.
“It’s very important to see what a person representing the Security Council has to say,” she said.
Steven Starr ’05 said he wanted to ask Akram about a statement Akram previously made condemning Israel’s Oct. 5 air strike on Syrian territory.
“I’m interested in his policy on Israel,” Starr said. “I think it’s important to talk.”
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