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(IN) DEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY

It is generally argued that developing countries can never have an independent foreign policy in absolute terms. They are compelled to think dependently as well as act dependently.

In that case a country can gain benefits through its foreign policy only if it manages to play its cards well. Compromise and collaboration can work in favour of a developing country if, one, it possibly creates a level playing-field and second, bring the other parties to equal terms. All in all, in today’s arena of complex international order, what works for developing countries is the credibility if they hold from world view.

For any state in the world, foreign policy is the most crucial means to achieve national interest during interactions with other states. Foreign policy sets the course of a country’s diplomatic relations with other states.  Traditionally, foreign policy has been regarded as a framework rules of which were merely based on ‘give and take’ phenomenon. With the world politics increasingly becoming intense and interaction between states turning multifarious; the mechanism of foreign policy included varied dimensions and now is considered a fairly complex phenomenon.

In order to formulate an effective foreign policy, two important perspectives must equally be considered: how does the world view the country? And how does the country view the world? Generally, the feasible decision making takes place while evaluating and assessing the level of difference between the two views which help the country establish its credibility in international community. Since the world has increasingly grown ‘interdependent’ and globalisation is the prevailing order, developing states, in particular, are not left with many choices while formulating foreign policy.

It is generally argued that developing countries can never have an independent foreign policy in absolute terms. They are compelled to think dependently as well as act dependently. In that case a country can gain benefits through its foreign policy only if it manages to play its cards well. Compromise and collaboration can work in favour of a developing country if, one, it possibly creates a level playing-field and second, bring the other parties to equal terms. All in all, in today’s arena of complex international order, what works for developing countries is the credibility if they hold from world view.

Among other developing countries, Pakistan’s case is very crucial in terms of its foreign policy for it has been severely criticised of being a weak, ineffective and fractured one. According to critics, foreign policy of Pakistan is influenced by illusions and assumptions instead of being a realistic framework. For past six decades, with the exception of China, Pakistan has been faced with turbulent times in its foreign relations with many countries, especially with its neighbouring states: India and Afghanistan.

Several factors contributed to the structural weakness and resultant feature of dependency in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Influences of extra-regional actors; Pakistan’s unintelligent choice of joining the alliances in early years following the independence; and reliance on the achievement of short-term goals have altogether direly affected the foreign policy decision making. In addition to this, foreign policy of Pakistan has been fraught with military influence. On a number of occasions not only Pakistan missed several opportunities to gain economic and political benefits but also lacked prompt and appropriate response to certain challenges that could have led to the foreign policy gains. Also, a number of foreign policy decisions proved detrimental and had a dire impact on the country.

In the name of collaboration Pakistan has been compromising on key issues. During past two decades, in particular, with failing economy, deteriorating security situation, political instability and increasing violence, Pakistan has lost its credibility as a significant and valuable member of international community.
Traditionally, Pakistan has relied on China, Saudi Arabia and Iran considering them as indispensible allies. However, with the gradual developments, shifting alliances, changing interests and emerging challenges at global level these countries now also tend to change their longstanding stance towards Pakistan. For instance, during last three years, Saudi Arabia has been trading with India and the trade figures are greater than the level of trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

 In order to formulate an effective foreign policy, two important perspectives must equally be considered: how does the world view the country? And how does the country view the world?
 Iran-Pakistan relations have also been affected to an extent due to the occasional firing incidents at the border between the two states and alleged illegal cross-border movements. On the other hand, the two countries want to proceed with the construction of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. The project has already been rejected by the US and the country does not want Pakistan to opt for the project. India has already opted out of the pipeline project. China, our all-time friend, despite an uninterrupted strategic and economic assistance to Pakistan the country is considerably shifting its policy vis-a’-vis Pakistan. For instance, China has changed its stance from an all-out support to Pakistan’s Kashmir policy to a neutral stance on the Kashmir issue. Pakistan is a member of a number of regional blocs, however, the country lacked a significant equation with many of them. For instance, with the European Union (EU), Pakistan has nothing but a donor-recipient relationship. On the other hand, India had made great strides in establishing trade relations with the EU. The country also does not enjoy significantly good political, trade and economic ties with other South Asian countries.
While talking about Pakistan-US relations, the events and incidents during last two years had a detrimental effect on their bilateral ties. The war against terrorism and following drone attacks, Operation Neptune Spear etc. not only have increased militancy inside Pakistan but have also put a question mark on our sovereignty. Our armed forces have been attacked and our nuclear assets are at risk. The US intends to continue launching drone attacks inside Pakistan which will continue to pose security threats and mar the relations between the two countries till the time Pakistan opts for a composite strategy to reset its equation with the US.

Current trends in Pakistan’s foreign policy are extremely discouraging. Now the country is not left with many choices. Our foreign policy decision makers must attend to the prime foreign policy requirements of the country. General elections are approaching in Pakistan. Whichever party forms the government the biggest challenge for upcoming government would be to develop a consensus on key foreign policy issues. What Pakistan cannot afford is the experimentation with the foreign policy. It would be highly deteriorating if the upcoming government fails to address the weak areas of foreign policy. The government would be required to device a comprehensive and consolidated foreign policy framework by utilising all the available resources and capabilities in order to rebuild its credibility as a respected state in the world. The country is also required to display its true potential to its fullest and establish itself as a reliable member of international community and to regain its lost significance for its major partners.

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