A shift in Pakistan foreign policy under different government and time to reshape it

Kamran KhanSince the creation of Pakistan, the debate over the foreign policy of Pakistan is a subject matter which is not very clear to every common citizen. The history witnessed drastic changes in the Pakistan foreign policy under different regimes. The foreign policy of Pakistan change with the change of every government and no reliable system has been adopted with the exception of a few cases. For example after the independence from 1947 to 1958 the Foreign policy had a clear shift towards the United States by receiving almost $ 2 billion dollars direct assistance after joining CEATO and SENTO. After the first Martial law in 1958, the chief martial law administrator Ayub strives to normalize its relations towards Soviet Union and established friendly relations with China. The Cordial foreign policy towards the USA remains the same. When Bhutto took over the charge, the East Pakistan was separated from the West Pakistan and the government was disappointed with the role played by United States at that time. So this time witnessed the shift of Pakistan foreign policy towards the Muslim Ummah. It was the same time when Pakistan organized the second OIC summit at Lahore and the leader of almost all the Muslim countries represented their states at that summit including Sheikh Mujeeb from Bangladesh. It was the same time when all the Muslim Ummah especially the Gulf countries were united in the Yom Ki Pur war and ban the oil export to the west until to stop the war in Palestine. No one can deny the role played by Bhutto in this case. It was the same time when under article 40 of Pakistan constitution of 1973 it was declared that, “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”. The same foreign policy of Pakistan once again adopted a set back during Gen. Zia regime towards United States and the role played by Pakistan in Afghan war is a clear indication towards this set back. After the disintegration of USSR in early 1990s, the strategic importance of Pakistan for the United States becomes no more important. From 1990 to 2000 Pakistan faced several challenges on its foreign policy front. The first one was the imposition of several types of sanctions against Pakistan by the United States in its presseler amendment introduced in October 1990s. The second one was the Afghan Taliban which was resolved to some extent by recognizing Afghan government in 1994. The third on was the resurgence of Kashmiri issue, the Pakistan nuclear explosion, sanctions by the western countries and the Kargil crisis. All these led to the coup by General Musharraf. After 9/11 the strategic importance of Pakistan once again fascinated the United States and Pakistan joined its hand with them without any sort of conditions.

All these instances show that the foreign policy of Pakistan has always witnessed shifts from time to time with the change in regime and faces. The father of Nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah clearly indicates in his inaugural speech to the Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947, that one’s “religion or caste or creed” had “nothing to do with the business of the state.” So he wants to establish the ground for a democratic and peaceful environment for Pakistan both in its internal and external affairs. Perhaps all this fact, an important thing in the foreign relations which must not be denied is the national interest of every state which they must to secure at any cost. We cannot say that all these leaders did not strive to secure the national interest at international front. Buy we can surely say that what they have done was the short term interest and they have lost was the long term interest of the beloved Pakistan.

From the South Asia to Middle East, major geopolitical changes are taking place. The Chinese “One Belt One Road” is a ray of hope for many. Many crucial steps have been taken and are taking place by the chines government to make it a success. The most commendable step is the initiation of peace talks with the Taliban’s. The Chinese and Russian relations are warmly developed and it is said that it will ends the United States unilateralism. The chines president visit to America and talks with Trump is also an instance of these developments. Although the Pakistan’s permanent membership in SCO is commendable, but the time is still critical for Pakistani leadership. They should strive to understand and reset its foreign policy goals according to the new requirements. So that Pakistan could also take the benefits of this new waves of opportunity.

To cover up the Foreign policy of Pakistan towards different states at different stages of our history is a long debate and it cannot be written in one sitting therefore it will take some episodes of this article. To begin with, we will try to review and analyze Pakistan relations with the so called “northern-tier” states of Turkey and Iran as well as the countries of the Arab world.

The Geographical, strategic importance of Turkey and Pakistan makes them important. Turkey has occupied a place of highest esteem in the Muslim world. There was a time when it was a center of the Islamic world (caliphate in 1924). The Muslim all over the world particularly the Muslim of sub-continent have always shows their due loyalties to caliphate and it was this caliphate for which they started the caliphate movement in 1919. Thus the relationship between Pakistan and Turkey has been rooted in their history. These relations are based on two elements i.e. religion and culture. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947 the Turkish ambassador meets with Jinnah. In the Response of his speech Jinnah said, Turkey has been in our thoughts constantly and has drawn our admiration for the velour of your people and the way in which your statesman and leaders have struggled and fought almost single handed in the midst of Europe for your freedom and sovereignty which have been happily maintained. I can, therefore, assure Your Excellency that the Muslims of Pakistan entertain sentiments of affection and esteem for your country, and now Turkey and Pakistan both as free, sovereign and independent countries, can strengthen their ties more and more for the good of both”.

In 1960s the extended relations between Turkey and Pakistan can be seen as a result of the establishment of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD). Presently it had been evolved as an Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). The friendly steps between the two states was disrupted as a result of several military coups in both states but these relations further improved when Justice and development party took charge in 2002. Tayyeb Erdagon personally visited to Islamabad in 2002 and several agreements were concluded on Cultural and defense sector. President Musharraf also visited Turkey in 2004. According to 2004 agreement Islamabad and Ankara would exchange intelligence and experts on joint strategy to tackle terrorism. From 2004 to onward the relations between Turkey and Pakistan are very cordial. Both the states are trying to improve its relations in economic cooperation and bilateral trade. Both the states established “strategic partnership” which provides a win-win situation to both states.

Presently as Turkey have been emerged as a regional economic power and is among the top twenty biggest economies, there is a great chances for a future Economic Union in Central Asia, South Asia and Middle East. Therefore both the Turkey and Pakistan should;

  • Follow the policy of mutual unity

  • Invest larger amount in the field of industry and infrastructure

  • Work for the establishment of an economic union.

Throughout its relatively brief history, Pakistan has been preoccupied with the difficult tasks of trying to insure its political and economic security as well as finding the proper means of providing a strong sense of and national identity. to say, a very important factor in the formulation of Pakistan’s foreign policy has been India, till 2001, which it has perceived not only as a military threat, but also as a diplomatic rival. Therefore, it has been only in the last two decades that Pakistan has looked outside the region of South Asia and more important to Arab countries of the Middle East for political support, and military and economic assistance due to Islam as a binding force or element of identity. Yet, in the domestic environment, Balochs or Pashtuns may see it as a secondary factor given their ethnic groups’ dissatisfaction with Punjabi dominance in internal politics and the fact that they have brethren across the borders in Iran and/or Afghanistan.)4 While Pakistan did develop close ties with Turkey and Iran prior to the 1970s, during much of that time period these countries were members first in the Baghdad Pact, but it was due to its internal problems that cannot be attributed to India (or to Afghanistan, with whom Pakistan’s relations, at times, have been far from friendly).

So Pakistan was finally accepted by the Gulf regime, the core of the Muslim world, and to argue that these ties, while very important, do not alone answer Pakistan’s needs in terms of security

or identity. True security can only be achieved when Pakistan resolves its problems more specifically external problems particularly Kashmir issue with India. Here its worth mention that Pakistan is not a theocratic state, its a democratic ruling state. Yet, throughout the history of that states’ existence, all of Pakistan’s leaders have sought close relations with the Muslim world because such a policy has been domestically; in addition, they probably did so to serve as justification for their country’s existence. This is the clear picture of Pakistan’s Middle Eastern relations, in general, may be seen in the context of Pakistan’s security concerns and the need to adapt to changing political and economic realities both in South Asia and the Middle East.

Relations with Saudi Arabia

There were many reasons to make this assumption. Pakistan current Premier and his party has closed relations with Riyadh and He himself has spent most of his time in exile in Riyadh and his family was provided is Saudi Arabia after Military coup of Mushrraf .

Beyond these close personal ties, the Saudi-Pakistan relationship has been extremely close since the 1960s, when Saudi King Faisal sought to consolidate the Gulf state’s position as a leader of the Muslim world by bringing the newly established Pakistan into its orbit. (Since 1960s, it was Saudi king Shah Faisal as a leader of Muslim World tried to bring newly born state Pakistan in his block. Since that Saudi and Pakistan are too close to each other.

Pakistan military have also link which grew rapidly. Throughout the cold war Pak Army were stationed in the royal kingdom for the protection of Saudi territory. During Iraq War Pakistan deployed troops to the royal Kingdom. Recently Saudi Arabia threw an Unconditional loan to Nawaz Government to boost up its foreign exchange reserves. So, it is clear that Pakistan relations to Saudi is like patron-client relationship.

But Pakistan step backed and there are many reasons to it that why Pakistan declined. Some of major to a fundamental shift in Pakistan foreign policy rather than its strategic outlook. It shows how that Pakistan handle Middle East.

First Pakistan Military and its resources are busy in both its western and eastern border, so in such position they are not in position to send it to Yemen and in Bahrain Shia uprisings in 2014., and where Pakistan has already bitter relation with its two neighbors, India and Afghanistan, and Pakistan in such time will never want Iran hatred.

Second Pakistan do not want to mingle its self in sectarian based diplomacy in Middle east. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam but its own nation is heavily divided along ethnic, linguistic, and tribal line. As such, there is strong opposition in Pakistan to fighting other states’ sectarian n battles or to getting entangled in conflicts beyond its near neighborhood. 

Third Shia comprises 25% of Pakistan’s population. Historically both sects have good relations but this is changing. Shia in general while Shia Hazara (in Balochistan) in particular increasingly become a target for militant anti-Shia outfits. So if Pakistan take part in Yemen it could risk fueling further Sunni-Shia violence.

Fourth, As sanctions are lifted from Iran after the P5+1 nuclear agreement comes into effect, Islamabad will want to capitalize on the opening of Iran’s economy, and is cognizant that being involved in Yemen may set back relations.

Finally, Pakistan is ultimately a pragmatic player. Pakistan has enjoyed a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent months (including visits from Iran, Turkey and China). It is enjoying renewed attention after relations with the US soured and lost momentum.

The Middle East landscape does appear increasingly complex, but for Pakistan the game remains much the same. It will always leverage opportunities to its own advantage, and its loyalties will usually go to the highest bidder.

To make the state effective and to improve its image, find respect and acceptance in the world requires a change in both foreign policy and mindset. We have to rationalized and harmonized the notion of being a true Muslim, a Pakistani nation with difference culture and ethnic diversity and modern at the same time. This change is slow process, which has to be because Pakistan is shortage of time as it faces major challenges internally and externally. Key among these are terrorism, extremist, economic instability, and population growth, which would likely reach 350 million by 2050. Pakistan also faces an environmental challenge, debilitating water scarcity, and social deficit. We are one of the few countries in the world that cannot administer preventive polio drops to our children. For all these we have to interact with our neighbors, particularly regional powers like china and India and most importantly with Muslim state. We must adopt a neutral, rational and internal state oriented foreign policy. A policy which brings happiness in both the minds and life of citizens. Which boost up our economic status. Make Pakistan a friendly state in relations with neighbors. A policy which improve its image in international political arena and shorten the gape and remove trust deficit with other states.

By Muhammad Kamran

The writer hails from South Waziristan Agency, FATA. He is a lecturer in Punjab Group of Colleges D.I.Khan

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