Decisions of Kulbhushan’s case and Reko Diq’s case in International court of Justice (ICJ) and The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of World Bank respectively have overwhelmed Pakistan’s foreign affairs this month. Apart from their impact on Pakistan’s national security and economy, these two cases call for extraordinary attention to its international perception and to develop expertise in international law which is the most neglected field in the country.

States do not plead cases at international forums, rather they project image of the country through explaining their point of view and perception management. In majority of international cases, the perception of the country determines the results of the cases. India often manages perceptions of the international community by giving undesired examples of Pakistan’s internal legal system. Indeed legal aspects of international relations are extremely important for securing strategic, economic and political interests in the world. The expanded concept of comprehensive security has encircled the legal dimensions of various issues into national security. States as a tool use international law to undermine economic and political interests of their rival states. In this context, Indian legal apprehensions against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are one of the prime examples of states interpreting international law according to their own interests.

Leaders of powerful countries often take international law and its obligations very seriously during their foreign visits. In 2016, President of China Xi Jingping met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and signed a Declaration of Interpretation of International Law. That declaration was signed to counter American narrative of unilateralism. The term unilateralism provides legitimacy to the US to intervene in any country on the pretext of civil war, non-state actors, etc. Major Powers often use international law as a cover to promote their strategic objectives in various parts of the world. They mask their strategic objectives in legal terms. Pakistan’s carpet, surgery and football industries that have been damaged due to the international conventions on child labour are glaring examples of selective implementation of international law. Unfortunately Pakistan has not yet developed adequate expertise in international law to cope such challenges emanating from external factors.

Pakistan often faces either strategic or commercial cases at international forums. Cases of strategic nature include Kashmir dispute, case for the extension of the continental shelf of Pakistan, Kulbhushan Jadhav’s Case, Indus Water Treaty, Mumbai attacks, etc. Commercial cases include bilateral investment treaties, IPPs, Reko Diq case, Karkey Rental Power dispute, etc. Pakistan should vigorously plead for the cases of strategic nature. However, commercial cases should be settled by the aggrieved parties outside the court through negotiations.

For instance Reko Diq case and Karkey Rental Power dispute not only embarrassed Pakistan internationally, but also burdened with heavy economic penalties. The negotiated settlement with the international investors also can beam out positive vibes for other international investors who are intending to invest in the country. In this regard a legal body should be constituted at the federal government level by appointing two retired civil judges to sort out commercial cases of international investors.

The input related to International Law is highly beneficial at statecraft level. Unfortunately, Pakistan has not worked on legal diplomacy to build relationship with various international institutions. A good working relationship with the legal directorates of international entities can create an enabling environment for the country to achieve strategic objectives. International institutions such as the United Nations, OPCW, World Bank, IMF, etc. have dedicated legal divisions and Pakistan can work on legal diplomacy with these institutions. This approach would solve dozens of bureaucratic and perception issues of Pakistan. Even domestically, majority of governance issues in Pakistan are due to the lack of information to policy makers about the international laws relevant to their ministries. If proper laws are understood by the relevant ministries, the governance could be improved in the country.

To conclude, Pakistan should vigorously promote the legal culture and train young lawyers in international law. Internships for young lawyers can not only provide benefit to government institutions, but it can also help in capacity building of young lawyers in the field of international law. This would improve Pakistan’s image abroad and the country would likely be protected from any international embarrassments.