Foreign Policy of Pakistan

Pakistan’s first major foreign policy decision was obligated by India’s hostility, manifest in refusal to respect the principles of the partition and transfer Pakistan’s share of British India’s assets, including the ordnance stores that left Pakistan’s Armed forces of 50,000 men without weapons for defence. In order to secure its independence, the new born state was in need of funds. For that reason, the government decided in October 1947 to move towards US for a loan of $ 2billion for defence procurement and economic progress.


No foreign policy — no matter how ingenious — has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.
Henry A. Kissinger

“Foreign Policy is the use of political influence in order to induce other states to exercise their lawmaking power in a manner desired by the states concerned: it is an interaction between forces originating outside the country’s borders and those working within them”.
Prof. F. S. Northedge

“Idealistic in inspiration, Pakistan’s foreign policy had to quickly come to grips with the reality of the challenge to its right to peaceful coexistence.”
Agha Shahi

“The foreign policy of a country is in a sense a projection of its internal policies, social, political and economic.”
(F. M. Muhammad Ayub Khan)


Oxford Dictionary

A government’s strategy in dealing with other nations

Encyclopaedia Britannica

General objectives that guide the activities and relationships of one state in its interactions with other states.

Merriam Webster Dictionary

The policy of a sovereign state in its interaction with other sovereign states

General Definitions

1. Foreign policy dictates how a country will act with respect to other countries politically, socially, economically, and militarily, and to a somewhat lesser extent, how it behaves towards non-state actors.

2. Foreign policy is the name of relations between sovereign states. It is reflection of domestic politics and an interaction among sovereign states. It indicates the principles and preferences on which a country wants to establish relations with another country.

Stages of Foreign Policy Making

Foreign policy makers follow the same five steps with which public policy gets made:

1. Agenda setting: A problem or issue rises to prominence on the agenda.

2. Formulation: Possible policies are created and debated.

3. Adoption: The government adopts one policy.

4. Implementation: The appropriate government agency enacts the policy.

5. Evaluation: Officials and agencies judge whether the policy has been successful.

Tools of Foreign Policy

Diplomacy is the tool of foreign policy, and war, alliances, and international trade may all be manifestations of it.

Kinds of Diplomacy

“Diplomacy is a game of chess in which the nations are checkmated.” (Karl Kraus)

Track 1 Diplomacy

Official discussions typically involving high-level political and military leaders and focusing on ceasefires, peace talks, and treaties and other agreements.

Track 2 Diplomacy

Unofficial dialogue and problem-solving activities aimed at building relationships and encouraging new thinking that can inform the official process. Track 2 activities typically involve influential academic, religious, and NGO leaders and other civil society actors who can interact more freely than high-ranking officials.

Track 3 Diplomacy

People-to-people diplomacy undertaken by individuals and private groups to encourage interaction and understanding between hostile communities and involving awareness raising and empowerment within these communities. Normally focused at the grassroots level, this type of diplomacy often involves organizing meetings and conferences, generating media exposure, and political and legal advocacy for marginalized people and communities.

Backchannel or Backdoor Diplomacy

Secret lines of communication held open between two adversaries. It is often communicated through an informal intermediary or through a third party.

Multitrack diplomacy

A term for operating on several tracks simultaneously, including official and unofficial conflict resolution efforts, citizen and scientific exchanges, international business negotiations, international cultural and athletic activities, and other cooperative efforts.

Approaches to Foreign Policy

There are few kinds of approaches of foreign policy, which help in understanding the foreign policy but they are used in different period of history. These are Historical or Traditional Approaches. These approaches have been adopted for the study of diplomatic events of a particular period with accuracy, precision, so as to learn lesson for future on the basis of past experience.

Legalistic Approach

This approach lays emphasis on the study of foreign policy in legalistic terms. Efforts are made to study the external relations of the states in the light of international law, treaties, constitutional provisions etc.

Descriptive Approach

The scholars adopting this approach pick up some specific problems or conceptual framework, using their own judgement on the weighing of various factors.

Analytical Approach

This approach differs from all other approaches of study not only with regards to the method but also in of international politics.

Comparative Approach

The comparative approach for the study of foreign policies is of relatively recent origin and draws inspiration from the study of comparative government.

Ideological Approach

This approach tries to analyze foreign policy as an expression of the prevailing political, social or religious beliefs. Thus, the policies are classified as democratic or authoritarian; liberal and socialistic, peace-loving or aggressive. However, the study of foreign policy purely on ideological basis is not possible because when there is clash between ideology and rational interests, the former is abandoned.

Foreign Policy of Pakistan

A country’s foreign policy is supposed to stay in lockstep with its political progression. By this yardstick, Pakistan’s foreign policy has, indeed, kept as tortuous a course as its political meandering, stumbling from crisis to crisis.

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy is determined by the inescapable facts of history and of geography and by special influences which may be of transitory nature. A look back at the history of Pakistan’s foreign policy reveals a continuity of aims as well as changing strategies. There have been shifts in policy from time to time in the light of changes in the global and regional environment.

Guiding Principles of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

“Our foreign policy is one of the friendliness and goodwill towards all the nation of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair-play in national and international dealings, and are prepared to make our contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah

“The State shall endeavour to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic unity, support the common interests of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, promote international peace and security, foster goodwill and friendly relations among all nations and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.”

(Article 40 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973)

Foreign Policy Objectives

The objectives of foreign policy can be summarized as under:

1. Promotion Pakistan as a dynamic, progressive, moderate, and democratic Islamic country.

2. Developing friendly relations with all countries of the world, especially major powers and immediate neighbours.

3. Safeguarding national security and geo-strategic interests, including Kashmir.

4. Consolidating our commercial and economic cooperation with international community.

5. Safeguarding the interests of Pakistani Diaspora abroad.

6. Ensuring optimal utilization of national resources for regional and international cooperation.


The following five factors are the main determinants of Pakistan’s foreign policy:

(i) Ideological Obligation

Islamic ideology is a very important factor in the determination of Pakistan’s foreign policy. The late Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan once said:
“Pakistan came into being as a result of the urge felt by the Muslims of this subcontinent to secure a territory, however limited, where the Islamic ideology and way of life could be practiced and demonstrated to the world.”

(ii)Historical Legacy

Pakistan inherited from the British files of the India Office the fear of Russia. Pakistan’s foreign policy makers always sought western assistance to stem the Russian advance towards their territory, though at present there is an interregnum period in this threat perception.

(iii)Geographical Location

When we look at Pakistan’s location, the statement that “the foreign policy of Pakistan largely begins and ends at her borders, more particularly at the Indian border,” seems to be accurate. A cursory look at the map of Pakistan indicates that roughly half of Pakistan’s land frontiers meet with India, about one-third with Afghanistan, approximately one-sixth with Iran and a very small strip with China. Russia is also very close to it through her former republic of Tajikistan.

(iv)The Indian Threat

Since independence, Pakistan’s national security is being threatened by the India because the British left the Kashmir issue unresolved and three wars have been fought between both countries. As long as the Kashmir issue is unresolved Pakistan has to formulate its foreign policy by keeping in view this constant danger.

(v)Economic Compulsions

Pakistan as a developing country also needs to establish and maintain cordial relations with those states with whom it can maximize its trade relations or from whom it can obtain maximum economic aid.

Overview of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy – major trends and turns

Generally, Pakistan’s foreign policy may be described as:
•    Pro-West
•    India-centric
•    Security-oriented
Following trends are visible in Pakistan’s foreign policy:
•    1947-53 – neutral foreign policy
•    1953-62 – alignment with the West (SEATO, CENTO, Mutual Cooperation Pact, US Foreign Assistance Act)
•    Pakistan became US’ “most-allied ally in Asia”
•    1963-71 – phase of transition
•    1971-79 – bilateralism and non-alignment (introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto)
•    1980-88 – tilted non-alignment (Pro-US but still normal with socialists except Soviet Union)
•    1989-2000 – search for allies (oscillating relationship with US; issues-based foreign policy)
•    2000 – on wards frontline state in war on terror; allegations of double game

Major Foreign Policy Decisions

1. Pakistan’s first major foreign policy decision was obligated by India’s hostility, manifest in refusal to respect the principles of the partition and transfer Pakistan’s share of British India’s assets, including the ordnance stores that left Pakistan’s Armed forces of 50,000 men without weapons for defence. In order to secure its independence, the new born state was in need of funds. For that reason, the government decided in October 1947 to move towards US for a loan of $ 2billion for defence procurement and economic progress.

2. The second major foreign policy decision was a consequence of US strategy for making a military alliance in the Middle East for the defence of political stability and safeguard of access to the rich petroleum resources of the Gulf region. In the mid-1950s, Pakistan had global, regional and domestic raison d’être to join Western-sponsored military pacts (and Grasping the opportunity for defence, Pakistani leaders decided to sign a defence agreement SEATO, 1954 and Baghdad Pact, 1955 which was renamed as CENTO in 1958.

During 1954-62, Pakistan received $ 5 billion (about $ 20 billion in current prices) in economic aid and arms supplies.

3. Third major foreign policy decision was seen when Pak-US relations with the United States came under increasing strain. Ayub Khan (1958-69) is considered to be the architect of Pak-US defence relations and therefore, he simultaneously offered India a “Joint Defence Pact”. Possibly under American pressure and against the popular reaction at home, he defied the temptation to march into Kashmir in 1962 when India was all enmeshed with the Chinese in its North-East

4. The fourth turning point followed the defeat and disaster of 1971, as soon as Pakistan reversed its policy of nuclear abstinence. When Bhutto came to power, the overall Indo-Pak power equation had skewed towards India and Pakistan was no match for it. Bhutto initiated to stress Pakistan’s Middle-Eastern character and asserted that Pakistan drew its purpose and identity principally from the sands of the Arabian Peninsula. Consequently, Pakistan received much aid from the Shiekhs of Gulf and vowed to make bomb as a retort to Indian alleged “peaceful explosion” of 1974.

5. The fifth turning point came after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979. The Super power advanced to Pakistan’s border and exposed Pakistan to the nightmare of the Indo-Soviet nutcracker. After an initial hesitation, Pakistan accepted US cooperation, assistance. In 1990, out of the blue, this period of the revitalized alliance ended, when the US President Senior Bush (1989-93), invoked the Pressler Law again to slap sanctions on Pakistan.
6. Pakistan’s decision to “join world community in the war against terrorism brought it back into the international mainstream and won it the revived and stronger support from major countries of the world, which it very much required in order to fight Al Qaeda and the indigenous Taliban who unleashed a reign of terror against Pakistani state and its people.

Future Challenges

The strategic environment around Pakistan is evolving and changing rapidly and it warrants an adjustment of foreign policy to take advantage of the changes or at least remain in sync with them. Unfortunately, the domestic scene does not support such an effort. Pakistan does not have a foreign minister and many embassies still await ambassadors. The world is moving on and it is doing so without Pakistan on board.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing an all-parties conference in early August, said that Pakistan was becoming isolated and other than China, it had no real friends in the region. Clearly, an unstable government can’t really focus on foreign policy, which in any case, is determined by the national security doctrine set by the country’s powerful military. That the Chinese President visited India and did not stop in Pakistan is a historical departure. Domestic turbulence in Pakistan may have contributed to this, but the red-carpet treatment given to President Xi Jinping in India is a signal that must not be underestimated. India is aggressively pursuing the strategy of its economic and business expansion, with Sino-Indian trade volume exceeding $70 billion now.

In today’s changed world, Pakistan needs internal stability and strength to pursue its foreign policy interests. This is not the time to create internal instabilities. This is the time for internal harmony so that the government can govern.

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