Foreign Policy Directions

Pakistan needs to follow a foreign policy that is more geo-economically relevant.

By AHMED SAEED MINHAS | September 2022

The foreign policy of a state remains the first line of defence to protect its ideological borders and meet its strategic interests. Pakistan’s current foreign policy apparently looks to be drooping and no major headway is meeting ends. It appears as if Pakistan has temporarily lost direction and steam in its diplomatic demeanour.

The Quaid-e-Azam believed in logic and law. This included, first, the fraternity, i.e. brotherhood among citizens or subjects, second, political, social and economic equality and lastly, liberty from oppression in any of its forms. In a nutshell, the Quaid wanted a prosperous, free, modern, liberal and democratic Pakistan. His vision of foreign policy focused on the concept of ‘live and let live’ in peace.

Pakistan unfortunately got embroiled in camp politics which proved to be detrimental to its interests. Pakistan should have chosen to remain non-aligned in the tussle between SEATO-CENTO and Warsaw Pact countries. Its preference to join the capitalist block against the communists resulted in negation of the Quaid’s vision, i.e. ‘friendship towards all states’. Pakistan, thus, unnecessarily indulged the war of biggies and created enemies for itself. India played smart and chose to remain a non-aligned political actor and it seems that Pakistan has not learnt anything in the last 75 years. The country’s foreign policy has remained security oriented and geo-strategy has been on the driving seat rather than geo-economy. The trust deficit between India and Pakistan has cost a lot and we have been relegating human development in favour of building military muscle.

In this period, some sense has prevailed and Pakistan’s National Security Policy [NSP] was unveiled in January 2022 which demonstrated a clear paradigm shift when it clearly outlined that henceforth our foreign policy shall be geo-economy-oriented instead of geo-strategy oriented. The state shall enter a social contract with its citizens and equal rights shall be ensured. It also resolved to avoid camp politics based on security orientation and the alliances shall only be economics-based. Albeit, the NSP has largely been appreciated both at domestic and international levels for having a foreign policy with a paradigm shift, yet it would be challenging for the foreign office to meet the ends.

Pakistan may not be able to remain aloof from geo-strategic happenings across South Asia, so it has to adopt a gradual approach in its foreign policy to meet the ends in terms of strategic interests. Moreover, Pakistan has to have a strong and self-sustained economy as a pre-requisite to opting for non-aligned positions. The states that are surviving on financial aid and take loans as a success of their diplomacy and foreign policies are bound to remain captive of their finance masters. Nothing is free in this world. Aid comes with strings attached and the concept of sovereignty becomes subjective and compromises are made. Pakistan unfortunately is a true example of this.

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