Assessing Pakistan’s foreign policy

Published: May 17, 2017
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The writer is a political and security analyst with a doctoral degree in International Relations

The writer is a political and security analyst with a doctoral degree in International Relations

Since the emergence of the modern state after the Westphalia peace treaty, developed states have been pursuing foreign policies in a way that it brings maximum benefits to their population. States have been designing foreign policies to maximise benefits and minimise losses. Against this backdrop assessing Pakistan’s foreign policy, in a nutshell, hasn’t been a great success, ever since the country’s existence. The achievements of Pakistan’s foreign policy are far from being considerable. Failure has outstripped success.

The underlying reasons for our foreign policy failures have been its inflexibility, a gulf between the policy objectives and absence of realistic practical steps for their attainment. This has been the result of the gap between the policy objectives, available and potential power and resources to pursue these goals.

Theoretically, Pakistan’s foreign policy has always been ideology-specific. But, in fact, the ideological content of it has never been implemented. In the age when the Western thinkers have been clamouring about the inevitable “clash of civilisation”, there has been an exigency that we should rationalise our ideology, which has had many grey areas. It is pertinent to note here that though ideology isn’t a significant driving force in the contemporary inter-state relationship, it’s the key determinant of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

The state ideology of Pakistan, conceived by Allama Iqbal and pursued by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was simple and rational. This should have reflected in the country’s foreign policy objectives but it hasn’t. Today, if the entire world is looking at Pakistan’s ideology with doubt, it’s mainly due to the insincerity of our policymakers, both past and present, to the raison d’être the state itself. The upshot of this suspicion is that despite claiming peaceful ideals today, the name of the country is associated with terrorism.

Pakistan is a small state vis-a-vis other middle powers like India. But the role it has been performing in the international arena hasn’t been commensurate with its relative size and status. Though Pakistan has a huge population, the latent talents of its people haven’t been explored. Therefore, instead of contributing anything positive to the national development, the population has become a burden on the national resources. There has been persistent social chaos, which aggravated with the passage of time, and today there is no viable strategy in sight for addressing these multidimensional complex issues. The rulers of the country should have reconciled the differences and divisions among the people on sectarian, ethnic and regional lines and must have sincerely tried to allay the spectre of discontent among different ethnic groups, instead of pursuing irrelevant, incompatible and unwanted policies and strategies. This could largely happen with a visionary leadership, which could formulate such foreign policies, whose only focus would have been on infrastructure, human and economic development in the country.

Geographically, Pakistan lies in a region which is of immense strategic and economic importance. So, keeping that in view, Pakistan should have been extra cautious and friendly in its relations with the neighbours. Unfortunately that didn’t happen but Islamabad is not responsible for it entirely. Rather, India and Afghanistan have bigger contribution to it.

The failure of our foreign policy, in recent years, can best be judged by the fact that due to the country’s involvement in the Afghan riddle and now in the Saudi-led military alliance, even our one-time staunch ally Iran has been severely critical of Pakistan’s policies.

Now Pakistan has a huge project in the shape of CPEC to have much-needed development and economic growth. Ours foreign policy strategy, in this regard, can only be successful if, in the words of great German political philosopher Immanuel Kant, it brings “the greatest good to the greatest number.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Shehzad Shah
    May 17, 2017 - 11:49AM

    The prerequisite for any successful foreign policy is definition of the country’s strategic interest and ergo the goals of foreign policy. Pakistan’s leaders have never defined the country’s strategic interest as ‘the greatest good to the greatest number (of Pakistanis)’. Rather it has been ‘protection of national security and ideology’. For the last several decades, definition of the country’s strategic interests and hence foreign policy has been monopolized by the military. The consequences are not impressive. Out of four neighbors, we have poor to hostile relations with three. Of the great powers in the world, we have a healthy relationship with only one, China, which also happens to be the one neighbor we are friendly with. Our relations will other powers are at worse contentious and at best pro forma. All our eggs are in China’s basket. Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    May 17, 2017 - 12:15PM

    Though Pakistan has a huge population, the latent talents of its people haven’t been explored. Therefore, instead of contributing anything positive to the national development, the population has become a burden on the national resources. There has been persistent social chaos, which aggravated with the passage of time, and today there is no viable strategy in sight for addressing these multidimensional complex issues. The rulers of the country should have reconciled the differences and divisions among the people on sectarian, ethnic and regional lines and must have sincerely tried to allay the spectre of discontent among different ethnic groups, instead of pursuing irrelevant, incompatible and unwanted policies and strategies.

    Pakistan is a country but not a Nation, what belongs to one another can also gro together. But religion alone is not enough to cultivate a single culture and shared values. The Governments policy of acting and expecting the population to follow is devoid of democracy which is built on consensus.
    Visionary leadership is a long shot, what is required a set of rules which has the support of the majority.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • kadwa sach
    May 19, 2017 - 4:14AM

    Since its birth, Pakistan has never had a coherent and consistent long-term foreign policy, attributed to the fact that it never had any visionary leaders as India had. Indeed, Pakistan’s foreign policy, if analysed, is a series of ad hoc decisions that have been, essentially, reactive rather than pro-active that would give the country an international identity. And, right now, it has a very negative image characterized by terrorism, religious extremism, widespread corruption, absence of an independent media and judiciary. I know that the people of Pakistan deserve much better fate than is meted to them.Recommend

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