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January 7, 2017

Diplomatic choices


January 7, 2017

The interdependence of states in today’s globalised and interconnected world is inevitable. The continuously changing global security and political and economic needs have forced states to make changes in their foreign policies, adapt to emerging realities and safeguard their national interests.

In foreign relations, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies – only permanent interests. States formulate and alter their foreign policies according to the needs of the fast-changing world – which is quickly becoming a connected global village. There is no doubt that national interests are supreme, but the dynamics of the 21st century also have to be kept in mind while formulating foreign policies.

Pakistan’s foreign policy is primarily directed to pursue the national goals of seeking peace and stability through international cooperation. It has always sought to develop friendly and cordial relations with all countries of the world.

As in the words of our founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world”. Following this statement, Pakistan has always strived to achieve cordial relations with each and every country, keeping in view the right to sovereignty and non-interference in the internal matters of other states. Our foreign policy has mostly been shaped within a security prism due to the Indian threat – which is still very much there as tensions between the two neighbours are growing day by day. India’s policy of border aggression is largely driven by its election process. Pakistan has repeatedly sought friendly relations with India but its overtures have not been reciprocated.

In recent months, there were fears and speculations about Pakistan being isolated in the international community due to its flawed foreign policy. But these fears stemmed from those who were merely chanting the Indian rhetoric. Contrary to this rhetoric, if we analyse the ground realities, Pakistan is much more connected with regional countries and is strengthening bilateral relations. Pakistan has healthy relations with many friendly countries, such as China, Turkey, and the Arab countries. Recently, Russia is also warming up towards Pakistan.

The CPEC which is a game-changer for Pakistan, as well as the region, is a clear example that Pakistan is never going to be isolated in the near and far future, as per India’s aspirations. Pak-China economic ties have been consistently growing over the past two decades and they will continue to grow in the future at a faster pace. There is hardly a sector of Pakistan’s economy where China has not invested. It is a fact that Pakistan is China’s strategic partner. Pakistab is the key energy link which enables China to minimise costs for its oil imports from the Gulf. On the other hand, India – as China’s competitor in both the energy game and regional hegemony – is tensed about China’s strategic goals for the CPEC project. These goals are oil trade, energy security and the dominance of the Indian Ocean.

There have been times when Pakistan had to make tough foreign policy choices which have been criticised globally. We quickly learned that there was no differentiation between good or bad terrorists and soon embarked upon a long and dangerous war against the extremists indiscriminately. Today Pakistan has emerged victorious in fighting these miscreants and has managed to almost eliminate them from its soil. The peace and security in Pakistan is largely related to the peace in Afghanistan.

Recent times have seen a thaw in the relations between both countries. The failure of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group process for reconciliation in Afghanistan induced a negative cycle in the relationship. Tensions were further aggravated by a row over the construction of a border gate at Torkham by Pakistan.

Pakistan will have to review its policy towards Afghanistan because Kabul is falling deeper into India’s embrace – which can have a negative influence on Pakistan. The country needs smart diplomacy to deal with India, Iran and Afghanistan and must cope with the current troubled relations with the US.

Pakistan needs to regain its lost diplomatic space in Washington as it cannot only depend on China. It also needs to diversify its foreign policy and develop one which is suited to meet the country’s economic, diplomatic and security interests simultaneously. Peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and economic integration should be our objectives for the prosperity of the country and the region. As an important country in South Asia, Pakistan has the potential to play a far greater role in the development and integration of the region.


The writer is a freelance contributor.

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