Written by admin on Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s foreign policy: what next?
SOURCE: Daily Times
Thursday, June 30, 2016

On Monday, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz rebuked claims that Pakistan is isolating itself in the international community. He was of the view that Pakistan is pursuing a proactive diplomacy for safeguarding its national interests in light of the changing dynamics of geo-strategic situation in the region. It was also stated that the United States developed close relations with India for containing China and Russia in the region. However, there are certain things that need to be pointed in order to dissect Aziz’s somewhat truthful but inconsistent analogy.

The dawn of the 21st century resulted in a multipolar world where China’s influence increased with Russia reemerging as a major power under Vladimir Putin’s leadership. Not only this, India also opted for the globalisation factor when the then finance minister, former Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh opened the doors for trade liberalisation.

Such steps led to economic stability and improvements in standards of living that led to New Delhi’s rise as a formidable force in the eyes of global leaders. As compared to Pakistan it is not rocket science why India as a trade powerhouse in the region has far more influence with the US in terms of economic and defence cooperation, and especially with the implementation of the civilian nuclear deal a decade ago.

On the other hand, Pakistan has faced periods of instability with overdependence on certain world powers such as the US and China for its economic and military requirements that were in the form of aid rather than investment. Pakistan, since its inception, relied on the US for myriad reasons, and at certain points, faced disappointment, as with the adoption of the Pressler Amendment, and the recent F-16 deal fiasco being just two examples. This led Pakistan to strengthen its ties with China.

Moreover, Pakistan’s Afghanistan and Kashmir policies were haphazard in the post-Cold War and 9/11 world, with the allegations from Afghan and Indian governments of extending overt and covert support to militant groups. In the post-9/11 world, Pakistan once again heavily relied heavily on the US sphere of influence, while maintaining close relations with China.

Time has proven again and again that Pakistan’s on-and-off relationship with the US was merely based on interests that have forced Pakistan to seek stable relations with Russia and China. These two states have already shown their willingness to cooperate on multiple projects with Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and North-South Corridor are among the mega projects initiated with the two powers that aim to reduce economic dependency on the West. Pakistan’s dependence on China is already raising eyebrows among certain quarters, which are concerned that the state is most likely becoming a satellite state for Beijing.

As for Aziz’s claim that Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts prevented India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it is true that Pakistan played a key role to block India’s entry; however, most of the credit goes to China that had its own interests. As an Asian economic giant, China appeared to be unwilling to provide space to India in the NSG, and the non-signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was a viable excuse to counter India’s application that had the backing of the US, France and Japan.

Pakistan should pursue a neutral foreign policy designed for its own interests rather than providing lip service to other states. One of the key problems lies in Pakistan’s dependence on economic aid, and that needs to be contained gradually. The state’s recent membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation along with India is a good development, but Pakistan needs to balance its relations with western powers such as the US on a long-term basis by reducing mistrust. Furthermore, relations with India should be based on economic and diplomatic interaction in areas of mutual interest, thus reducing hostilities to give peace a chance.

Pakistan is a country with huge potential and unlimited problems. Focusing on developing its resources to their optimum limit, Pakistan’s primary target should be development in all fields. Pakistan’s national security being a primary goal should not be confused with a penchant for opening fronts with its neighbours. And Pakistan’s equation with China and the US must be based on mutual trust, irrespective of the size and stature of the other, endowing respect to what Pakistan can do as an ally and not a subservient state that is merely to be exploited as a pawn on the geostrategic chessboard.


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