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Pakistan’s foreign policy: A tale of blunders and missed opportunities

foreign policy
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Hamza Liaquat |
 

The recent FATF episode and vulnerability of Pakistan to international isolation is evident by unexpected moves of the iron brother of Pakistan, China, and ideological friend, Saudi Arabia. More recently from SAARC gathering to FATF meeting, Pakistani lords have been expressing their slogans of joy on social media about diplomatic success against rival India and contemporarily against Superpower America; but, the ground realities narrates opposite to expectations of our political elites. 

The beauty of contemporary politics is that it is driven by the projection of raison d’etat. Nations are following principles of the game of Chess in their dealings with others and are checkmating rival nations with diplomatic means.

Unfortunately, the national politics of Pakistan and excessive trust upon others for politico-economic and diplomatic support vis-a-vis the historical desire to act as a game changer in world politics by aligning with greater powers against other powerful states has resulted in contemporary dependence of Pakistan upon China and Saudi Arabia. But, our friends also have limitations in cooperating with Pakistan owing to their national interests.

The contemporary earthquake in our foreign office and in politico-military circles is a positive sign which shows the emergence of new thinking in our policy-making circles and would help them to think out the box and to approach other nations too for cordial relations in all walks of life.

Frequent helping hand by China to save Pakistan from humiliation at international forums and Pakistan’s approach to burden China using CPEC card and energy dependency of China upon Central Asian nations has frustrated some in Beijing. Likewise, continuous support of Pakistan to non-state actors according to America, India and Afghanistan, and continuous denial of Pakistan to these allegation vis-à-vis frequent terrorist attacks on Chinese nationals has resulted in the decline of support by China.

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

Further, ongoing debate in politico-military circles about House in Order has strengthened the arguments of the rival triangle, India-America-Afghanistan. Same is the case with Saudi Arabia. Pakistan’s effort to maintain a balance between Persian power and Gulf power while becoming part of Islamic Military Alliance has antagonized Iran. The recent visit of CAOS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to Iran for normalization of ties and resulting love affair between India and Iran in aftermath of that visit shows the diplomatic limitations of Pakistan.

This futile effort resulted in disloyalty to Saudis. In order to strengthen the alliance with Saudis, Pakistan again decided to send troops into a holy land without clarity of their purpose at the cost of Iran’s reservations. Realistically speaking, we as a nation remained unable to modernize our way of dealing in modern trends with others which is evident by lack of trust by world upon our commitments despite the huge cost we paid in the form of human and financial loss. 

Scapegoating of Pakistan by Americans in the Afghan war has emerged as a blessing in disguise for Pakistan and has provided her with an opportunity to revise her foreign policy in modern trends.

The contemporary world is marked by frequent alliance formation keeping in view national interests. Indian foreign policy in this regard is the best manifestation of national interest in which she not only formed an alliance with America but also maintained the balance of power with Russia. Similarly, her ‘Act East’ policy, approaching Iran and Afghanistan vis-à-vis the Middle East and Central Asian nations for regional dominance and energy diversification is opposite to her old policies of non-alignment. Same is the case of Saudi Arabia which saw an opportunity to cooperate with Russia (rivals in past in Afghan battleground) in Oil diplomacy.

In short, all cooperate on ‘reciprocity’ principle to fulfill national interests.

The point, I want to make here is that ‘Beggars can’t be Choosers’. Both China and Saudi Arabia are time-tested friends but the difficulty of that test should not antagonize them which would result in a diplomatic and financial loss for Pakistan. We are begging for money, oil and diplomatic support including Veto from friends in return for confused narrative in the form of relations with Iran and non-state actors and security threats to Chinese workers.

Read more: Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: A tale of fear and resistance to change…

The result would be quite simple to comprehend: they would help Pakistan internationally but not at the cost of their own global standing. Now, a question arises, what should we do to maintain healthy relations with friends to secure diplomatic support at global arena. Perhaps the answer lies in overhauling of our political system. Up till now, we remained unable to make a rational balance between rival powers. At times we opted for one at the cost of other.

The recent visit of CAOS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to Iran for normalization of ties and resulting love affair between India and Iran in aftermath of that visit shows the diplomatic limitations of Pakistan.

It is high time for our political leaders to make some sustainable policy rules in line with modern trends where there are neither permanent friends nor permanent foes – only permanent interests. A lot of examples are present where historical enemies are changing into allies and vice versa, owing to national interests. Contemporary relations between India and Iran, America and India, and relations between Turkey and America validate the above claim.

In this atmosphere of the world in transition from unipolar to multipolar, the projection of national interest based upon national consensus seems Hobson’s choice for nations to survive with a high head. Projection of national interest would not only reduce the dependence of Pakistan on outsiders but also help her to become a leading influential actor in the community of nations. Putting it differently, it will help Pakistan to lessen the burden on friends and would make sure their effective use in time of crisis.

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

But, the effective projection of national interest requires long-term policy making and consistency in policy implementation which had remained absent from Pakistan’s culture of policymaking. Scapegoating of Pakistan by Americans in the Afghan war has emerged as a blessing in disguise for Pakistan and has provided her with an opportunity to revise her foreign policy in modern trends.

Lastly, the contemporary earthquake in our foreign office and in politico-military circles is a positive sign which shows the emergence of new thinking in our policy-making circles and would help them to think out the box and to approach other nations too for cordial relations in all walks of life.

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


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