Dividends of unified diplomacy

Pakistan has always figured out as a significant player in regional and global dynamics

Qasim Mehmood October 01, 2022
The writer holds an MPhil in IR and has been working with leading think tanks in Islamabad

To realise true potential of a nation, all elements of national power must be synergised in a way that strengths are capitalised and weaknesses are addressed. However, to achieve this much sought-after synergy, a common national understanding or a unified national vision is necessary, to act as a moral compass, which calls for relentless pursuit despite differences in opinions or ideas.

Pakistan by virtue of its geography, demography and potential has always figured out as a significant player in regional and global dynamics. Despite our international relevance, sadly, we have not been able to capitalise our strengths and forge a role befitting our potential.  We owe it much to our inability to navigate differences of opinion and tendency to indulge in petty feuds. Resultantly, our successes are not fully capitalised or belittled to deny credit to the opposing side. Our overindulgence in domestic political gimmickry and tendency to blame external powers for our plight has held our foreign policy hostage since long.

As a silver lining to the dark clouds, consistent efforts by the military leadership to ensure balanced and wholesome engagements with international partners is keeping the boat of foreign relations afloat. The personal rapport, contributions and steadfastness of military leadership augmented successive government efforts in convincing the international community to follow through on their commitments to support Pakistan.

The Saudi and Chinese financial deposits during the tenure of previous government and their subsequent rollovers under the present government were only facilitated with personal intervention by present army chief. The long standing issue of resumption of IMF loan programme, a critical requirement for financial sustenance of the country, was being held in abeyance due to political uncertainty in the country. Had it not been facilitated through personal guarantees of military leadership, the financial situation would have become more precarious. Similarly, military diplomatic forays of army chief are also resulting in enhancement of financial pledges and donations for flood relief efforts in Pakistan.  

The role of military diplomacy to alley the financial concerns of the country is not only restricted to supplementing government efforts of garnering financial assistance from our International partners, but it has also been playing an important role in maintaining Pakistan’s conventional military capability vis-à-vis threat in our region…..which in itself is an existential matter for Pakistan.

This aspect has been balanced in a visionary manner despite our consistently decreasing defence budget (as percentage of GDP) and increasing great power competition. Resultantly, we were able to concluded USD 450 million sales proposal of F-16 maintenance package by the US and at the same time acquire state-of-the-art tanks, high-technology fighter jet J10 C, air defence systems and long-range precision strike artillery systems from China.

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Our Defence manufacturing sector in past five years has also made monumental contributions to the economy and cost-effective maintenance of conventional capability. The results are visible through generation of Rs70 billion exports, Rs6 billion in taxes, 8,000 private sector jobs and economising expenditure through enhanced indigenisation and reliance on local maintenance. 

The resumption of diplomatic ties with Russia finds its genesis through military diplomacy in 2011. The consistency and timely follow-ups by successive military leaders resuscitated our relations with Russia. Personal focus by the present chief significantly elevated these relations in 2017 and 2018 resulting in formation of joint military commission, which eventually paved the way for government-to-government engagements. Similarly, decisive efforts by the military leadership to secure CPEC, has reinvigorated progress on the affiliated projects since 2017 rekindling the Chinese leadership's confidence and trust in economic investments in Pakistan.  

The professionalism and par excellence of our armed forces evident through our participation in joint military exercises and international competitions has raised Pakistan’s stature in comity of nations, enabling us to have balanced foreign relations including ties with Arab countries, US, China, Russia and UK. Formulation of Pakistan-China Joint Military Cooperation Committee, Pakistan-US joint exercises, Pakistan - Russia joint counter terrorism exercises, multiple exercises with Arab and Gulf countries and Qatar’s request for Pakistan’s security contingent for upcoming FIFA world cup 2022 are a testament to this fact.

Special emphasis by military leadership has enabled conduct of multiple international military competitions in Pakistan which is indeed a matter of prestige for any nation. These competitions include 3rd International Physical Agility and Combat Efficiency System (PACES) Competition, 53rd World Military Shooting Championship at Lahore under the auspices of Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) in 2021 and 5th International Pakistan Army Team Spirit Competition (PATS) in 2022. A novel approach of hosting international military cricket matches with Australia, England and Sri Lanka played a significant role in resumption of international cricket in Pakistan.   

Pakistan’s contributions to global peace through participation in 41 UN peace missions across 23 countries and laying 163 lives for global peace has earned it great respect as a responsible actor in the international community. We have also played a leading role in ensuring regional security in pursuit of which we have made monumental sacrifices. The global community's eagerness to learn from Pakistan’s success in counter-terrorism is also an endorsement of our efforts.

We don’t have to look far for a good roadmap to rebuild our foreign relations and to achieve an international status befitting our stature. Inspiration in this regard can be drawn from our military diplomacy and the key role played by military leadership in strengthening our foreign relations, raising our international stature as well as enabling significant economic contributions through personal rapport and galvanising Pakistan’s defence exports.

As a lesson from our recent history and successes, whenever we adopted a unified approach we were able to meet seemingly insurmountable challenges. The national institutions have always stood by successive governments, supplementing their efforts in tackling issues of national significance. A positive step in this regard was the formulation of a unanimously endorsed national security policy based on economic security first. This policy brought all stakeholders to agree on a unified vision and indicated our strategic intent to the global community. In order to reap the dividends of this policy, we must shun our differences and political shenanigans. The need of the hour is to adopt a unified diplomatic course, an approach which synergise foreign policy and military diplomacy to increase the dividends.    

The ravages of great power competition demand an extraordinary focus, synergy and a forward-looking foreign policy. As a course correction, we must appropriately showcase our strengths to the global community in order to be viewed in the correct perspective; as a peace-loving, responsible and resilient nation which has made unmatched contributions to global peace and has much more to offer.

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