Given the intricacies and implications involved, foreign policy is a subject that always requires statecraft and that is why states often recalibrate their strategies away from the public glare. But Pakistan is quiet forthcoming in making its plans public. The latest example is the statement of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, who has publicly stated that the time had come to seek greater engagement with China and Russia. His statement must be seen in the following context a) it is a message that Pakistan is no more solely relying on the US b) this reflects the new strategic realities that necessitate adjustments.
After having remained in the US camp for several decades, Pakistan in recent years has realised that it needs to diversify its foreign policy options. It first began adjusting to the new realities in 2011, the year when its relationship with the US had gone haywire.The controversy surrounding CIA contractor Raymond Davis, killing of Osama bin Laden in Abottabad and murder of 24 Pakistani soldiers in the US air strikes at Salala check post compelled Pakistan to look beyond Washington. A joint sitting of Parliament had recommended a raft of foreign policy measures. One of the key proposals was about further deepening strategic partnership with China and expanding cooperation with Russia.
While this policy change was long overdue, Pakistan doesn’t need to go on a confrontational mode with the US. What we need is to strike a delicate balance. We can improve and deepen cooperation with Russia and China but at the same time maintain cooperation with the US, which is important not only because of it being the sole superpower but also for regional peace and stability. Also, it is important that the overarching objective of our foreign policy must remain protecting Pakistan’s core national interests. And it is only possible when we follow a balanced approach, one that caters to the current geo-strategic realities but at the same time keeps us away from being sandwiched between the powerful international players.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2017.