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Pakistan's Foreign Policy: Past & Present

 

A state's foreign policy is its objectives and activities in relation to its interactions with other states. In other words, the state’s foreign policy determines or defines its relationship with other states.

In a previously published article, I have talked about the determinants of any country’s foreign policymaking. In this essay, we will analyze the Foreign Policy of Pakistan since her inception till today including the major shifts in it. We will also discuss the underpinning ideology of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Fundamentals of the Foreign Policy of Pakistan

The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had defined Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives, while addressing to the people of the USA in 1948, in these words:

“Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our utmost contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world, and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

Ergo, the foreign policy of Pakistan would be and is the one aiming at the peaceful coexistence with the other nations of the world. This ideology is the underpinning of Pakistan’s foreign policy that depicted itself in her relationships with the other states in the times of peace and conflict that we would discuss in the article later.

Here, it is pertinent to see what foreign policy guideline has been laid out in the constitution of Pakistan. The article 40 of the constitution says:

“The State shall endeavor to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic unity, support the common interests of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, promote international peace and security, foster goodwill and friendly relations among all nations and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.”

Thus, peaceful coexistence with the Muslim and other states of the world are the hallmark of the foreign policy of Pakistan.

Let’s discuss how Pakistan has navigated through during the critical times in its history of almost 73 years.

USA or USSR?

Pakistan came into being during the onset of the era of the cold war between the USA and the USSR. As two contending powers in global politics dominated the world and the world was bipolar, ergo Pakistan was faced with a situation in which it had to choose between the two powers.

It is often debated why Pakistan didn’t strike a balance between the USA and USSR by staying neutral, but joined the USA while (as mentioned above) it sought to maintain friendly relations with all the states, when both the states extended their hands for friendly relationship with Pakistan.

In response, it has been argued by many analysts and writers that Pakistan was born as a security state that faced serious threats to its survival from India. As foreign policy seeks to protect, promote, and advance national interests. Thus, as India had formally made an alliance with the USSR, ergo in order to secure her national interests and maintain the balance of power, Pakistan chose to join the USA camp.

In order to checkmate USSR expansion, Pakistan along with the USA has vehemently pursued its military option in Afghanistan. Pakistan played a vital role in defeating and breaking USSR in 1989.

However, Pakistan has always been deceived and faced dejection by the treatment Pakistan was given by the USA during critical times (that is another debate, so let’s not deviate from the topic).

Arab-Israeli War and Pakistan’s Policy

Israel is a state that came into being in 1948 through the illegal occupation of Palestine land. Pakistan has always opposed its formation and till today it didn’t recognize Israel as a state in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians, based on the guiding principle of its foreign policy in article 40 of the constitution.

Even during Arab Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973, Pakistan provided military assistance to the Arab states. Pakistan chose the military option to help the Arab world in checkmating Israeli expansion and annexation plans.

Even in contemporary time, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan maintains that Pakistan would never recognize Israel and make diplomatic relations unless the Palestine issue is resolved.

But the same Arab world has made peace agreements and diplomatic relationships with Israel that I have discussed in my article.

KSA-Iran Rivalry and Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

Pakistan always chose to remain neutral amid Saudi Arabia and Iran rivalry. It always resorted to mediate in order to mitigate the conflict between the two states. In 2015, Pakistan had formally turned down Saudi Arabia’s requests for troops to join the Saudi war in Yemen.

There is no denying the fact that Pakistan possesses a formidable military power. However, the purpose and the objective of its military power is to maintain regional peace and credible deterrence against any aggressor in the region like in the case of Israel or India, as outlined in the constitution of Pakistan.

Pakistan enjoyed a harmonious relationship with KSA. Saudi Arabia provided Pakistan with economic assistance in times of crisis. On similar lines, Pakistan vowed to stand by with KSA in order to protect the Holy places of Muslims in the kingdom from any foreign aggression.

With Iran, the relationship of Pakistan remained friendly in the beginning. But, with the increased footprint of India on Iran’s soil and the orchestration of Indian designs to subvert peace in Pakistan, particularly, the infiltration of terrorists and extremists into Pakistan through Iran border in order to fan sectarian violence and ethnic conflict, and to sabotage the ongoing CPEC projects have created bitterness between the relations of the two states. Still, Pakistan always supported diplomatic ways to reform the relationship with Iran.

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy vis-à-vis India

Since its inception, Pakistan and India’s relationship throughout remained chequered. They fought three wars over Kashmir. Both the state utilized the military option to settle the Kashmir dispute but it remained in a quagmire. It is often said that Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint between Pakistan and India.

However, the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century marked a major shift in the foreign policy of Pakistan towards India. The traditional military option is replaced with the diplomatic option to resolve the Kashmir issues. The military dictator Pervez Musharraf held a number of meetings with Indian counterparts over the Kashmir issue. However, the Indian aggressive military posture against Pakistan has always been effectively countered.

The current government under Prime Minister Imran Khan seeks to utilize diplomatic options rather than military power in all its foreign policies. After assuming the office, the Prime Minister Imran Khan has categorically stated that if India took one step towards us to make peace, we will take two steps. However, aggression will be countered with an effective response.

Imran Khan is a pacifist leader who always supported dialogues to resolve disputes. According to him, ‘war is never an option. Afghanistan suffered for two decades, now the world has seen that only dialogues are proving to be fruitful.’

On similar lines, Imran Khan supported dialogues with India. Recently, in an interview with the famous Indian journalist Karan Thapar, Moeed Yusuf who is a National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, maintained that Pakistan and India should sit and resolve the issues through dialogues. He even saw that interview as the opportunity to discover the possible avenues for making peace. During the interview, he has maintained time and again that both the states should let go of the past and discuss the future.

Under the administration of the Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan has gone through a visible shift from military to diplomatic option in its foreign policy. On Kashmir issue, Imran Khan has time and again highlighted the Kashmir issue on International Forums. During the 74th and 75th sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, Imran Khan has outspoken on the Kashmir issue to make the world well cognizant of the atrocities committed by Indian Forces to the oppressed Kashmiris. On the sidelines of the UNGA session, he has met the world leaders separately to bring them on board on the Kashmir cause.

Indian designs to rise as a regional power has always been effectively deterred. Pakistan’s defensive military approach in order to maintain the credible deterrence against India has proved to be effective in checkmating the aggressive Indian posture in South Asia.

In a nutshell, Pakistan has always sought to maintain peace in the region. The ambition of peaceful coexistence with other countries in the world when taken as a weakness by India compelled Pakistan to revisit its foreign policy options against India.

Today, the present government is utilizing all the diplomatic options to secure a legitimate interest in making peace. However, the military option will always be there for Pakistan to deter aggression.

CONCLUSION

Pakistan has always tried to maintain friendly relations with all the states on the international stage. From striking a balance between the USA and China to maintaining a harmonious relationship with Iran and KSA or from inviting India to a dialogue table to making efforts for peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan has always played the role of an ambassador of peace on the global stage. She has always supported diplomacy over the armed conflict as evident by her efforts for the freedom of Kashmir. Thus, her relations with the world states are very much in consonance with the foreign policy guideline laid down by the founder of Pakistan.

 

 

 

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