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Pakistan’s foreign policy front in the next decade – Dr. Zafar Jaspal

Dr. Zafar Jaspal discusses Pakistan's foreign policy in the coming decade; the challenges it faces, the opportunities, and which way to go forward on the foreign policy front.

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Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is a well-renowned professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid e Azam University in Islamabad, where he teaches various aspects of International and Defense affairs. Dr. Jaspal has also served as the director of the School from 2012 to 2016. In addition to this, he is a widely published scholar, he recently published his India’s Surgical Strike Stratagem: Brinksmanship and Responses (April 2019). He regularly contributes to both electronic and print media. This piece is part of a series for the January Issue of Global Village Space magazine looking at the next decade for Pakistan – its strategic challenges and opportunities (2021-30).

Pakistan’s foreign policy will be grounded on the internationalist rather than an isolationist approach and therefore it remains an ardent supporter of rules-based international order in 2030. It will be playing an active role in the multilateral forums such as the United Nations, Conference on Disarmament, International Atomic Energy Agency, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and Economic Cooperation Organization.

Pakistan’s geographical location will be both favorable and inconvenient for its regional and global pursuits. It will become a more crucial player in world affairs and play a critical role in the Great Powers’ competition in political, economic, and military domains. However, India will be the key determinant of its strategic calculations due to New Delhi’s disinclination to resolve chronic disputes and persistent expansionist and hegemonic struggle in South Asia. Despite New Delhi’s adversarial approach, Islamabad will incline to engage India from sovereign equality to cooperate on shared interests. Besides, Afghanistan’s domestic dynamics and the Great Powers competition in the neighborhood keep taxing it politically, diplomatically, economically, and militarily. Hence, in terms of the security environment, Islamabad will see itself on three fronts, i.e., India, Afghanistan, and hybrid warfare.

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Pakistan will be having a sovereign defense in 2030. Its military-industrial complex will relieve it from reliance on the external military hardware imports for its military needs, which prevent it from arms embargo blackmail during the escalation of conflict with India. Besides, its military hardware exports generate enough revenue for the new generations of weapons to sustain the strategic equilibrium in South Asia. Pakistan’s nuclear program will contribute impressively to the civilian sector and endures credible nuclear deterrence capability in the military domain. Nevertheless, Pakistan will undesirably remain to engage in an arms race with India. Therefore, Pakistani armed forces will equip with advanced weaponry, including fifth generations of fighter jets, hypersonic ballistic and cruise missiles, and nuclear-propelled, nuclear-armed submarines.

Pakistan’s strategic rivalry with India and strategic partnership with China will drive it away from the United States’ allies in the region, creating a difficult situation for Pakistan to maintain cordial relations with Saudi Arab led Arab states in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Despite the divergence of interests at the strategic chessboard, the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union will be the prime destinations for the Pakistani students and exports. Islamabad will have balanced strategic connectivity with Moscow, importing a few military hardware items, and jointly working against the region’s radicalized militant group’s menace.

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Pakistan’s economic situation may be stable due to its pivotal position among the Eurasia, Central Asia, West Asia, and South Asia regions. Besides the Karachi seaport, its Gwadar seaport will be a trade hub due to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its flagship project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Hence, it will emerge as a transit hub, energy, and trade corridor for Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Western China. Its politico-economic cooperation with Turkey, Qatar, and Iran will be productive but not providing it enough opportunities to consume its colossal unskilled workforce. The economic cooperation with Russia will augment the indigenous oil and gas exploration. The Russian trust will further its economic cooperation with the Central Asia Republics and Azerbaijan.

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