Pakistan
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Maria Bastos |

This Summer turned out to be a rather prolific period for Pakistan’s foreign policy. However, there was no discernible change. Think of summer 2016, which was marked by a brief but intense escalation of tensions with India, fuelled by the latter’s continuous brutality against Kashmiris. Nearly hundred civilians were killed, with a higher number made blind as the result of metal pelting by India security forces.

Two summers later and Pakistan foreign policy may be better described by turning to a paradox: dynamic but without significant changes. Pakistan and India relations remain immobilized

Pakistan took the initiative of exposing India’s atrocities in Kashmir at different forums, including the UNGA. Kashmiris, however, continued to be dehumanized and humiliated. At the state level relations, after the Uri attack, Pakistan’s Foreign Office rejected any involvement in the incident, followed by the usual rhetoric escalation.

Read more: Pakistan’s foreign policy and current challenges-part 1

In addition, PAF aircrafts started unusual maneuvers of taking off and landing at portions of the Lahore-Islamabad motorway, perhaps attempting to show some muscle. Once again conventional foreign policy practices could not take place, thus remaining confined to the realm of the politics of memory.

No fundamental shift could be observed, despite the usual unproductive and imprudent cacophony. Relations with China may fuel the idea that foreign of policy of Pakistan is going through a change

Summer 2017 may be ending; however foreign policy keeps heating up politics in Pakistan. This year, two different actors: US, and of course China acted much to the consternation of Islamabad. First, the US president unveiled the much- awaited strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, leaving Pakistan bleeding from healing wounds. A few weeks later, Pakistan got another message, this time directly from Xiamen, China. The 48th point of the BRICS summit joint declaration will be recalled a key outcome, at least on what concerns China.

Read more: Pakistan’s foreign policy and current challenges-part 2

The 48th point of the BRICS summit joint declaration will be recalled a key outcome, at least on what concerns China, India, and Pakistan relations. While there may be room to speculate about possible short to mid-term scenarios on how Pakistan will maneuver her foreign policy around, we must reflect upon how the US and China will deal with Pakistan.

There is enough room for speculation on why China conceded to include terrorism and its links to Pakistan in this year BRICS declaration, contrasting with what happened last year in Goa, India

First the US. Pakistanis may have rightly felt attacked by Trump’s words, principally because the country is engaged on tackling terrorism and its main known causes. Therefore, American discourse towards Pakistan, which has been stuck on the ‘do more’ demand, this time generated a significant wave of revolt, perhaps not so much due to ‘do more’, but because the US appears to be interested in a more active role for India in Afghanistan.

While the whole strategy is an encompassing episode of selective memory, the genuine questions that remain to be answered are: how could India possibly have a more proactive role in Afghanistan without having better relations with Pakistan? Or how could the US ignore Pakistan’s systematic complaints about Indian duplicitous activities in Afghanistan? Was Trump’s speech a provocation, a short-sighted assessment of the decades old foreign policy dynamics in South Asia, or perhaps both?

Read more: Ignored and scathed on a global platform: What is the future…

Xiamen declaration’s 48th point represents a proactive, multilateral foreign policy engagement, Trump’s speech may be understood as an imprudent, unilateral threat greatly disconnected from the reality on the ground

While the answers may be dependent on the analyst own positioning, it seems certain that politics of memory or in this case the lack of it, keeps crossing the troubled US – Pakistan relations. The US selective discourse when it comes to Pakistan is symptomatic of her super-power status, having enjoyed seven decades of hegemony in South Asia.

Now China, but keeping the US in closer orbit. Within an institutional setting, Pakistan’s most valuable foreign relations asset delivered a similar message to her South Asia pivot, albeit with a striking difference from US. By re-enforcing the absolute need to eliminate terrorism, China joined the US, and of course India on the collective pledge to Pakistan, once and for all, to ditch any potential appetite to support, or keep militant groups as ‘strategic assets’.

By agreeing to include a specific reference to Pakistan based terrorist groups China put to great use politics of memory as an instrument of foreign policy. Xiamen declaration’s 48th point represents a proactive, multilateral foreign policy engagement, Trump’s speech may be understood as an imprudent, unilateral threat greatly disconnected from the reality on the ground, but China opted for playing within the significance of multilateral institutionalism.

Read more: Revisiting Pakistan’s foreign policy: Flaws and possible actions for rectification

There is enough room for speculation on why China conceded to include terrorism and its links to Pakistan in this year BRICS declaration, contrasting with what happened last year in Goa, India.

First the US. Pakistanis may have rightly felt attacked by Trump’s words, principally because the country is engaged on tackling terrorism and its main known causes.

While the home factor may be taken into account , thus conferring a different kind of legitimacy, we mustn’t forget, as certainly did not Chinese policy makers that the clock is currently ticking fast for China: recent border tensions with India at Doklam, and the DPRK deepening crisis to which US pressure and reactivity can’t be left unattended, may well have prompted China to choose an appropriate time to deliver a message, not only to Pakistan, but also to the US, thus alerting the latter that China is and will remain fully engaged on South Asia domestic and foreign policy current issues, including Afghanistan.

In conclusion, two summers later and Pakistan foreign policy may be better described by turning to a paradox: dynamic but without significant changes. Pakistan and India relations remain immobilized. As far as relations with the US are concerned, no fundamental shift could be observed, despite the usual unproductive and imprudent cacophony. Relations with China may fuel the idea that the foreign policy of Pakistan is going through a change. It may well be an exercise of mimicry, with a close affinity with her relations with the US, in a not so distant past. The politics of memory must continue.

Maria Bastos is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Westminster, UK and teaches at the School of Government and Society, UMT, Lahore. Her research interests include Pakistan foreign policy, South Asia politics, and history, and postcolonial IR approaches. She tweets as @Minesbastos. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space editorial policy.

Maria Bastos is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Westminster, UK and teaches at the School of Government and Society, UMT, Lahore. Her research interests include Pakistan foreign policy, South Asia politics, and history, and postcolonial IR approaches. She tweets as @Minesbastos

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