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Nawaz Sharif appointee Sohail Mahmood is Pakistan's new High Commissioner to India
One of the major decisions taken by Nawaz Sharif before being removed from office by the Pakistan Supreme Court in Panamagate case, was appointing Sohail Mahmood, Pakistan's envoy to Turkey as Pakistan's new High Commissioner to India, replacing Abdul Basit, who has already completed his three year tenure in India.

Sohail Mahmood is a career diplomat and one of the senior most officers of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Earlier in his foreign service career, Sohail Mahmood was never posted in India in any capacity and neither did he play any role in Pakistan's policy on India while posted in Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, Sohail Mahmood is expected to reach New Delhi in August, 2017 to take over from his predecessor Abdul Basit. Incidentally, Abdul Basit was scheduled to retire in April, 2018 from Pakistan Foreign Service, but sought premature retirement with effect from August 1, 2017, and the same was accepted by Nawaz Sharif before his dismissal.

Abdul Basit, who is known to be a hawk and close to the Pakistani army, fell out with Nawaz Sharif, when the latter appointed Ms Tehmina Janjua as Pakistan's foreign secretary in February, 2017, overlooking Basit as he was senior to her.

Sohail Mahmood was born in 1962 and after completing his post-graduation in History and International Relations he joined Pakistan's Foreign Service in 1985 and held several positions in Pakistan as well as abroad.

Before joining as Pakistani's Ambassador to Turkey, he was Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad and his other postings there included as a Section Officer (1986-1991), Director (1995-1998) and Director-General (2005-2009). He also served in various Pakistani missions abroad including in Washington, D.C. and New York. He was Pakistan's Ambassador to Thailand between 2009 to 2013 from where he was sent to Turkey as Pakistan's Ambassador.

Notably, Pakistan and Turkey have strong economic and military relations and Turkey always favours Pakistan over India on several issues, including on Kashmir and "multilateral dialogue" on Kashmir.

Sohail Mahmood is a seasoned diplomat and only one year junior to present Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua, who is also Pakistan's first ever woman foreign secretary. Before getting posted to India, Sohail Mahmood had a successful stint in Ankara and played an important role in strengthening Pak-Turkey relations amidst political uncertainties in the host country after an attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016, allegedly by self-exiled Islamist cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

Significantly, Fethullah Gulen's group also has decades old schools and business establishments in Pakistan. Pakistan was in a diplomatic dilemma after failed Turkey coup as Turkey wanted Pakistan to shut down all academic institutions in Pakistan being run by Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen. It was Sohail Mahmood's diplomatic skills which helped Pakistan in handling the issue successfully, which was praised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself.

It was during Sohail Mahmood's tenure that in November 2016, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid his second visit to Pakistan and become the first foreign dignitary to address the Pakistan Parliament twice as earlier he had done in 2009 during his visit to Pakistan. Sohail Mahmood, during his tenure in Ankara also played an important role in bringing China closer to Turkey which helped in making Turkey less reliant on America.

Sohail Mahmood would be taking over as Pakistan's High Commissioner to India at a very crucial juncture of bilateral relations between the two countries. His predecessor, Abdul Basit, during his three years stint failed to make any positive contribution in improving Indo-Pak relations due to his hawkish approach particularity on the Kashmir issue. His stint in New Delhi was marred by several controversies such as funding of separatists in the Kashmir Valley, vocally supporting the success of so-called Kashmir movement, his closeness to Hurriyat leaders and inviting them to the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi on several occasions, which eventually led to cancellation of talks between foreign secretaries of both countries.

Indo-Pak relations have been passing through a very critical period, especially when there are no direct talks happening between the two countries. Pakistan army's hawkish approach towards India and its meddling in Kashmir's affairs leaves no scope for Pakistani High Commissioner in India to play any significant role on his own.

Pakistan army's spreading unrest in Kashmir by supporting militant organsaitons active in the Kashmir Valley as well as Hurriyat leaders; unabated violations along the Line of Control (LOC); beheading of Indian army men by Pakistan army's Border Action Teams (BATs); handing out death sentence to Kulbhushan Jadhav, the alleged Indian spy by Pakistan's military court; Pakistan's allowing China into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) for its dream project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are some of the major issues which are creating hindrances in India's genuine efforts to improve its relations with Pakistan.

Since Pakistan's foreign policy on India is conceived and controlled in totality by the Pakistan army, Sohail Mahmood would have little chance to show his diplomatic skills in India as Pakistani's new High Commissioner, as shown by him during his previous posting as Ambassador to Turkey. At the most, during his tenure in India, Sohail Mahmood is likely to remain occupied in advocating reduction of tension between India and Pakistan as well as emphasising on resuming talks between the two countries.

Sohail Mahmood may be professionally sound and been a successful Pakistani diplomat in the past, he, however, would have an inconsequential role to play being in New Delhi as ultimately he has to follow his "station brief" to be prepared by the Pakistan army during his posting in India.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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