Diplomat Hall of Fame | Sahabzada Yaqui Khan of Pakistan

You haven’t heard of Sahabzzada Yaqui Khan, also known by some close friends as Sammy K? In 1999, language maven William Safire considered him the “most skillful diplomat in the world” and Washington’s diplomatic corps ranked him among the best dressed.

Why was he considered to be such a skilled statesman? For one thing, he listen[ed] more than he spoke and was also a polymath with extraordinary intellectual talents. His hard-to-find book, Strategy, Diplomacy and Humanity includes many of his speeches and insights–although I haven’t yet been able to track it down. Even so, he was highly regarded by presidents and prime ministers and colleagues as a remarkable representative par excellence.

But above all, Mr. Safire was impressed by Mr. Yaqub Khan’s diplomatic skills, saying he had been dispatched by his country on delicate missions, including when Pakistan sought to reassure Washington that a bloodless military coup by Gen. Pervez Musharraf against an elected but incapable government was both necessary and temporary. “Is democracy an end in itself,” Mr. Yaqub Khan asked rhetorically, “or a means to an end? What do you do when democracy leads ineluctably to chaos?”

Source: Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, Pakistani Diplomat, Dies at 95 – The New York Times

In a notable lecture, “Diplomacy as a problem in epistemology,” President Richard Nixon was impressed by his intellectual and strategic heft, where Khan explained his understanding of national temperaments:

…the erudite diplomat argued about the historic wrong perceptions of reality leading to wars and bitter relations between nation-states. Each state or nation, he observed, inhabits a cosmos of its own. The geocentric view in diplomacy is limiting, impeding the quest for objectivity. This epistemology, he highlighted, offers challenge to diplomacy and diplomats in a world that is either at the brink of tragedy or possibly at the threshold of limitless possibility.

“In each bilateral dialogue, each side has a vital national interest which must be safeguarded. This is the hard core but around this the negotiating positions could be supple and adaptable to circumstances. There could be six ways to tie a baby diaper. The mistake we are often tempted to make is to take rigid position on negotiating positions as we do on hard core interests. The resulting impasse often leads to a breakdown of talks. This may help advancing dialogue and peace and understanding in a battered and embattled world,” he went on to argue.

Source:”The diplomat with an unfair advantage’  The Express Tribune – Pakistan


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