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Thursday, February 15, 2024

The French dilemma and its implications for Pakistan’s foreign policy

According to the author, Pakistan's foreign policy is in crisis because expelling the French ambassador can lead to a halt in Pakistan's economic progress as France is an important member of the EU and can oppose Pakistan's political narrative at international forums.

Sovereignty bestowed to the nation-states was to make sure the political, religious, and social stability remains against each other. The difference in the identities of the nation causes the state to stand sometimes against each other when sovereignty is at stake. Pakistan, in the Pan-Islamic world, is also facing a tragedy in decision-making against France.

The French president Emanual Macron justifiably tried to procure the liberal rights of the citizens of his sovereign state by saying that, “I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw,” but the sentimental sovereignty of the Muslim world was being thrashed by insulting the divine existence of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Read more: French President Macron provokes Muslims worldwide by defending publication of blasphemous cartoons

Pakistan in the Islamic World, the headwind from the inside society, is affecting the whole foreign policy-making sphere against France.

Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan has thronged the streets of Pakistan with violent protests once again. Pakistan’s government had promised to oust the French ambassador after proper documentation, but the religious clergy says the government has not fulfilled its promise. Severe clashes are occurring across Pakistan between protestors and security forces.

Read more: Is TLP dictating the state?

Muslim world against France

Gideon Rose coined the term Neo-classical realism to explain such behavior of the state when being under crisis. According to Neo-classical realism, states face international as well as the national intervening variable which affects the formulation of foreign policy. Accordingly, Pakistan is also entangled in the crisis to formulate its foreign policy against France.

French president supported the freedom of expression of his citizens when the prophet Mohammad was portrayed in cartoons. This was a highly condemnable, unethical, and unprofessional attitude, which the French president showed as religious sentiments of the Muslim world, including Pakistan, were hurt.

Read more: Al-Qaeda threatens Charlie Hebdo for republishing blasphemous cartoons

The very aggressive response was conveyed from the Islamic world to France. Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and all the Muslim countries were thronged with the protests to make the government take robust actions against France.

Being in a crisis, the whole Muslim world articulated the aggression in their foreign policy against France. Statements from the leaders of the Muslim states were conveyed to France. Religious entities condemned the very illegal act of France against the liberal rights to be respected in the International system.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “French Leader needs mental treatment”. Many Middle Eastern countries boycotted French products.

Read more: Erdogan tells Macron to undergo ‘mental checks’

Pakistan’s reaction

Internally, very robust aggression had come at the front from the religious entities including Mufti Taqi Usmani, Siraj-ul-Haq, and the late Khadim Rizvi. These religious existences carry huge public aegis behind them which makes them able to persuade the government to be concerned about their demands.

Inside Pakistan, the French Products were boycotted. The public showed a coherent response to government policies.

Read more: #BoycottFrenchProducts: What does Pakistan import from France? The answers are worrying

Pakistan had handed a dossier to the French ambassador as a protest of Pakistan, reporting Pakistan’s condemnation of the French President’s statement and the blasphemous cartoons.

The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan said,” illegal and Islamophobic acts” hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world and “could not be justified in the name of freedom of expression”. 

Rizvi came with the demands to expel the French Diplomatic Staff from Pakistan. A truce had been reached between the government and TLP leaders to end the sit-in. Religious Affairs Ministry spokesperson Imran Siddique affirmed the news of ending the sit-in.

Read more: French embassy advises its citizens to leave Pakistan over ‘serious threats’

Implications for Pakistan

This is how, Pakistan, a nation-state, existing in the realist world must make the decision when entangled with international as well as internal pressure groups.

Internationally, Pakistan must assure its Islamic coherence with the Pan-Islamic world and must give a response to France when the religious sovereignty of it is challenged. While internally, Pakistan must consider its religious identity and the pressure groups including the public opinion while formulating its response towards France.

Read more: Huge rallies in Pakistan, Iran against France anti-Islam wave

Seeing the response of other Muslim Nations, Pakistan also decided to boycott French products, and aggressively condemned the whole event. Besides the full will, Pakistan has to limit itself to some international obligations which spur it to not cross the red line.

To expel the diplomatic staff or to make other robust actions that can harm the international stability, Pakistan can’t bear such decisions. Pakistan is an under-developing country and cannot risk deteriorating its stability.

This is what the true essence of Neo-classical realism promulgates. Foreign policy decision-making is not so simple as it looks. Analytically it must consider the international aspects as well.

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

If Pakistan gets the French ambassador out, it will cause economic and political instability for Pakistan. France is an important member of the European Union which can halt Pakistan’s economic progress and can oppose Pakistan’s political narrative at international forums. Pakistan must think about all these consequences.

Though TLP is not enlisted by FATF, the protests and religious extremism can severely damage Pakistan’s position in FATF also. So, the government must make very robust and calculated steps in maneuvering the situation.

Read more: No agreement was inked with TLP regarding expulsion of French ambassador, says government

Pakistan should discuss the ongoing turmoil with the French government and should also control these religious organizations by force this time, so to avoid any future instability and turmoil.

The author is a Junior Research Associate at the Maritime Study Forum and sub-editor of Strategic Times magazine. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.