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The rising trend of regionalism in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

The rising trend of regionalism in Pakistan's Foreign Policy

“Being defiant can be a good thing sometimes. Defiance is like marijuana – it is not a bad thing when it is used right.” _Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus

Since independence, the major objectives of Pakistan’s foreign policy have remained fluctuating. Although there are some constants such as efforts to keep close cooperation with the US, deep security assurances for Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, and highlighting Kashmir dispute at all international forums, many approaches have been replaced over the years during this evolutionary process, depending upon the ground realities and regional or international strategic environment. Excessive reliance on the US has been replaced with that on China, aggression against India has been replaced with pragmatic approach of appeals for dialogue, and perhaps most importantly, struggles of creating balanced foreign policy between Riyadh and Tehran have taken unprecedented pace.

Foreign policy of a country is aimed at safeguarding its national interests. In that, ensuring and strengthening country’s security and stability is considered the prime interest. Pakistan’s foreign policy goals have traditionally been defined by this prime interest. Currently, however, the country’s foreign policy is revolving around six major interests including softening its international image, enhancing exports and access to major markets, internationalizing Kashmir dispute, improving regional connectivity which is pegged with regional security and stability, and developing cordial relations with major powers (particularly the United States).

With the seeds of the Kashmir conflict with India sown right at the time of partition and consequent inheritance of various problems (weak institutions, water disputes, economic compulsions, etc.) to the newborn state not only determined the contours of Pakistan’s foreign policy in the early years but also set the highlighters that were to greatly squeeze and influence Pakistan’s foreign policy goals in the following decades. With the threats from India, Afghanistan’s previous hostilities, invasions and presence of external major powers in the region and adding to that – the horrors the “war on terror” brought to Pakistan; it is not difficult to see that the state’s foreign policy remained reactionary in most cases, and dormant in others.

Whatever the compulsions for Pakistan have been in the previous decades, the current regional and global structures are different and very opportunistic for Pakistan. Khursheed Mahmud Kasuri, former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, highlighting foreign policy issues to the country; writes, “The emerging new international economic environment influenced in several different ways by the process of globalization that has placed new responsibilities on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” He also highlights the politico-economic relationship becoming preeminent in the twenty-first century: “[T]he term political economy now applies both to the internal and external dimensions of politics and economics.”

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