Pakistan’s foreign policy and the changing regional dynamics

According to Barkat Ullah, in the contemporary era, shifts are occurring in regional politics, and Pakistan's foreign policy faces several challenges and opportunities. Due to this, Pakistan needs to shape its foreign policy accordingly.

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The politics of South Asia are greatly changing due to recent developments. On one side, there are non-traditional security threats in the shape of corona pandemic and environmental issues. On the other side, power politics, trade rivalries, and economic integration among regional and global powers are dominating regional politics.

Under such situations, states with limited capabilities in terms of economy and development, shape their foreign policies according to the specific circumstances to pursue their maximum interests and make sure there is minimum confrontation.

Pakistan has a very important status in the politics of Asia, specifically in South Asia, due to its geostrategic location. But unfortunately, from the beginning, Pakistan’s foreign policy has struggled due to a number of challenges including economic constraints, weak policymakers, domestic weaknesses, and internal political disabilities.

Read more: Neo-Bilateralism: A perspective on Pakistan’s foreign policy

In the contemporary era, shifts are occurring in regional politics, and Pakistan’s foreign policy faces several challenges and opportunities. Pakistan needs to address these challenges and avail the opportunities by shaping its foreign policy accordingly.

The scenario so far

The increased tensions between China and the United States of America have a direct impact on Pakistan. Even Islamabad doesn’t want its relations to be affected by the said rivalry, but it has to look at the situation according to circumstances. The recent corona pandemic, issues in the South China Sea and Indian ocean, and economic competition have heated the tensions between China and the US.

The USA has shown its reservations about China’s Belt Road Initiative and CPEC a number of times. CPEC is the economic partnership between Pakistan and China, and it is launched under the flagship of BRI. Most recently the US along with its other G7 allies has announced a greater plan to counter China’s economic expansion.

Read more: Irony: G-7 wants to protect poor countries from China’s debt trap

Build Back Better World B3W, is a strategic and economic plan of regional economic integration to counter China’s investments in under developing countries. The USA has also expressed its worries about China’s economic depths to Pakistan several times.

Under the current situation, Pakistan is more inclined toward China, but Pakistan can’t keep its relations with the USA ignored because of the Pak-US partnership in a number of issues such as the war on terror and Afghanistan peace process, etc.

Therefore, the responsible authorities in Pakistan should play their part smartly when it comes to dealing with the tensions between China and the US. Pakistan has a harsh history of taking sides in global rivalries past but this time it will not work and a proactive approach is the need of the hour.

Read more: Choosing US over China is strategic madness for Pakistan

Pakistan’s position

Moreover, peace in Afghanistan is a big dream of the international community. Pakistan’s role has always been important in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan is keen to play a significant part in the peace process of Afghanistan.

The hasty decision of the US to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and deadlock in intra-Afghan dialogue has brought clouds of uncertainty for the future prospects of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban has increased its violent activities in terms of attacks on Afghanistan’s security forces.

Read more: Taliban resumes attacks despite the deal

Before analyzing the situation of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s possible approach to it, one must consider the geostrategic location of Afghanistan. Afghanistan lies on the border of Pakistan and Iran. Similarly, it shares its territorial borders with mineral-rich Central Asian republics, which means Afghanistan is the only land passage for Pakistan and China to engage with these central Asian republics.

Afghanistan is also located in the backyard of Russia, which had a historical rivalry with the US in the shape of the cold war. It still has several differences with the US and its allies in certain geostrategic and political aspects.

Read more: Russia rising from the ashes: new cold war for the US?

Keeping such facts in mind, one might understand the flurry of US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The US might not want complete peace in Afghanistan as the interest of its arch-rivals are greatly connected with peace in Afghanistan. China is currently investing a healthy amount in Pakistan in the shape of CPEC.


As mentioned earlier, Afghanistan is the land route to the central Asian countries and the future of CPEC is greatly connected with it. Further, the internal situation in Pakistan is also greatly dependent on the situation of Afghanistan as both are neighbors.

Moreover, the US has serious tensions with Iran due to its nuclear program. Under such circumstances, the US would not want to leave Afghanistan in a peaceful shape when peace in Afghanistan is greatly important for China, Iran, Russia, and Pakistan. So, these countries should focus on the recent developments that occur in Afghanistan.

Read more: Why do countries want peace in Afghanistan?

In this regard, Pakistan should engage these regional stakeholders for a permanent peace settlement in Afghanistan as the US has to leave Afghanistan, but is still determined to remain in the neighbor of these countries.

The writer is Islamabad based columnist and can be reached at views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.