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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Bilateral engagements under PM Shehbaz Sharif distressful for India

With Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the coalition government in Pakistan, we could surely hope that CPEC and other initiatives of regional connectivity would gain traction. Also, it is assessed here that under PM Sharif, Pakistan will not become a part of alliance politics and a balanced approach will be adopted in foreign relations, especially in India.

Pakistan is a responsible member of the international community and in the eyes of international law, it has all the privileges to establish diplomatic-strategic relations with members of the international system. This forming of relations is an integral part of international relations which time and again attests to its importance in development through trade and commerce, and also helps in mitigating emerging threats of traditional as well as non-traditional nature.

To fulfill such endeavors, Pakistan has envisaged a new approach toward international relations by focusing on the much-needed aspect of exploring the importance of geo-economics vis-à-vis its geostrategic location. In this regard, Pakistan is committed to enhancing its relations with China and somehow renewing its bilateral relations with Russia; however, due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, the Russo-Pak relations are hard to witness revamp.

Read more: Why is there a strong dislike for PM Shahbaz Sharif?

Also, Pakistan is committed to strengthening its foreign relations with the European nations and North America. However, besides Pakistan’s determination to focus on geo-economics to bring connectivity to the region and beyond, its Eastern neighbor India instead of becoming a part of this new thinking – is unnecessarily concerned and its leadership is constantly spreading propaganda and false information.

Let us now explore Pakistan’s growing bilateral relations, and later will discuss why India is so concerned about the initiative of bringing development through connectivity in the region and beyond. It will also discuss that India’s concerns are exaggerated and blown out of proportion.

Pakistan-China in February 2022

China hosted the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 in which 2,900 athletes took part in various events. It is quite frustrating that China’s neighbor India along with the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (U.K.), and Australia diplomatically boycotted the mega event. However, formerPrime Minister of Pakistan witnessed the opening ceremony of the event in Beijing during its four-day state visit from February 3-6, this year.

Pakistani PM also met Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister met its Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi. The Pakistani leadership also visited China in October 2019 and the recent visit was the first in the post-Covid era. A 33-point Joint Statement was also concluded between Pakistan and China.

Read more: Shahbaz Sharif’s first orders as PM

Statements by General Qamar Javed Bajwa

On April 2, 2022, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa made a very important statement at the Islamabad Security Dialogue. He argued that “The intel community’s collective security rests in our ability to integrate our shared goals of global prosperity to an equitable international system resisting the external pressures.” Gen. Bajwa added that Pakistan enjoys a wonderful relationship with China and is fulfilling its commitments to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

On relations with the U.S., he said that both countries enjoy a “long history of an excellent and strategic relationship.” Prior to this, on April 1, 2022, Gen. Bajwa met with Mr.ZalmayKhalilzad, ex-U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation and “stressed the need for global convergence and sincere efforts to avert a looming humanitarian catastrophe. COAS thanked him for attending the Islamabad Security Dialogue.”

Analysis and After thought

The RIC or Russia-China-India Triangle was co-founded by India in 2001, and it is fundamentally similar to Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS), or even Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). These agreements emphasize multilateralism for regional cooperation and beyond.

The Indian leadership must realize that in comparison to Pakistan, India is a huge market, and it would be very difficult for Islamabad to replace New Delhi. It is a fact that Pakistan’s geographic location in proximity to the Central Asian Republics and the Gulf countries makes it more geo-strategically important. However, the Pakistani leadership is determined to focus on geoeconomics rather than on geo-politics. The Indian leadership must appreciate Pakistan’s endeavors for regional connectivity.

The Indian leadership must understand that compared to Pakistan, India is a huge market, and it would be undeniably challenging for Islamabad to supplant New Delhi. It is obviously true that Pakistan’s geographic location in the vicinity to the Central Asian Republics and the Gulf nations makes it more geostrategically significant.

New Government in Pakistan

With Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the coalition government in Pakistan, we could surely hope that CPEC and other initiatives of regional connectivity would gain traction. Also, it is assessed here that under PM Sharif, Pakistan will not become a part of alliance politics and a balanced approach will be adopted in foreign relations, especially in India.

On April 11, 2022, in his first speech in the National Assembly after getting elected, PM Sharif made it clear that Pakistan values its foreign relations with China, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf countries. He also emphasized the strengthening of relations with the European Union, U.K., and the U.S. due to strategic and economic reasons.

During a Press Briefing on April 11, 2022, following PM Sharif’s election as the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki replied to a question regarding Pakistan by arguing that “We have a long — a strong and abiding relationship with Pakistan — an important security relationship — and that will continue under new leaders.”

Such an encouraging statement from the White House is a good omen

The post-Covid world needs cooperation and enhanced connectivity. Evidently today, it is very hard for nations and states to fight the fallback of Covid and to sustain national economies all by their-selves alone. This situation could worsen following the U.S-China Trade War and the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War and could result in unfavorable global economic strains.

Read more: Can’t meet criminal Shahbaz Sharif: PM Khan

Pakistan’s globally appreciated strategies to counter COVID-19 and climate change under the previous regime should serve as a catalyst for the incumbent leadership to make Pakistan a more responsible state in the global community which would eventually encourage more countries to engage with Pakistan.

The National Security Policy of Pakistan launched under the stewardship of former PM Imran Khan and Dr. Moeed Yusuf also called for a friendlier approach towards India while laying the framework for capitalizing on Pakistan’s geo-economic potential. However, on the other hand, Pakistan’s neighboring country is busy spreading propaganda against the increasing bilateral relations with Pakistan.

Nonetheless, with PM Sharif and his vision of bringing peace and prosperity to the region, Pakistan’s foreign relations with China, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf countries are likely to gain traction and a special emphasis is likely to be given to the European Union, U.K., and the United States.

 

Written by Muhammad Ali Baig and Mehmood Ali

The author is a Research Associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), Pakistan. He is a Ph.D. scholar at the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), and a distinguished graduate of National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad, Pakistan. 

Muhammad Ali Baig is a Research Associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), Pakistan. He co-authored the book Realism and Exceptionalism in U.S. Foreign Policy: From Kissinger to Kerry (2020). He can be reached at mmab11@gmail.com. The views in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.