Owing to its geographical location and the natural wealth the country possesses, Pakistan has all the potential to play the role of a great power in the 21st century world. Even after almost seven decades of grappling with countless problems and crises, Pakistan still has all what it takes to be a great power and a strong state in the global arena. Topography, size, location, natural resources, climate, etc., all such tangible elements of national power are available with Pakistan in a perfect mixture. Besides, credible defence prowess, nuclear arsenal and having one of the world’s best intelligence agencies are other facets to be taken into account. In addition, youth bulge, abundance of skilled labour, intellectual property and highly-skilled diplomats are other elements that enhance country’s national power, which is a basic determinant of a country’s policy. Had the policymakers taken prudent steps to exploit these resources in country’s best interest, they could have transformed Pakistan from a developing state into a developed one. But, unfortunately, chronically-lethargic state institutions as well as frequent power transitions along with an unending wrangling among the power-hungry elites and political leaders have weakened the state’s position on the global front.
Additionally, the intrigues by hawks as well as the global policeman i.e. the United States, have also deteriorated the condition of the State to a level from where such progress seems a distant dream. Sadly, Pakistan has always been trapped into the unforeseen pitfalls.
Greatest concerns of Pakistan
The imperialistic policies of the US, the hegemonic designs of India; the orthodox behaviour of Saudi Arabia and insurgents’ armed groups—the greatest threat of 21st century—have mired the State of Pakistan in a deep quagmire of death and turmoil. To protect her interests, Pakistan has always sought to satisfy and appease the global and regional powers, but all in vain. Take it either “War on Terror” or even “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” Pakistan has been, serving the greater interests of the world powers rather than those of its own people. The biggest problem for Pakistan since its inception has been its arch-rival India as due to its devilish policies and acts, Pakistan made the greatest blunders of its history; be it the joining of SEATO and CENTO or entangling itself into the Soviet-Afghan war.
The foreign policy of Pakistan has always been devised to counter its greatest enemy—India. In the meantime, unfortunately, the global hawks have taken the fullest advantage of the miseries of Pakistan.
In current scenario, Pakistan is engulfed in numerous critical issues; some being global and others domestic, in nature. Both of these affect the formulation of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Above all, Pakistan doesn’t have a full-time foreign minister—the job is being done by the Prime Minister himself. Even more worrying is the divergence in civil-military relations. Additionally, India’s brutalities in Kashmir and her interference in Balochistan are other factors affecting the policymaking in Pakistan. Above all, Indo-US civil nuclear deals and strategic cooperation is becoming a cause of greater concern for Pakistan. On the other hand, India’s bid to isolate Pakistan has rung alarm bells in Islamabad as it has also bettered her relations with Saudi Arabia—Pakistan’s life-long friend. This drastic shift came once Pakistan refrained from being a part of the “34-state Islamic military alliance” led by Saudi Arabia. Along with that, India’s growing cooperation with Iran and Afghanistan are other greater concerns. In all this chaos, China is the only power that is standing side by side with Pakistan—supporting the country in strategic as well as economic matters.
Game of relative gains
Fortunately, Russia has turned toward Pakistan in recent months as Indo-US alliance has got strengthened. Besides, Pakistan’s inclusion into SCO has also contributed to the development of relations with Central Asian Republics (CARs). Terrorism, being a global concern, is one of the pivotal issues to be tackled by SCO. In this regard, Pakistan’s fight against terrorism might get a helping hand in near future. Additionally, Pak-Turkey relations need to be transformed into a vibrant economic cooperation as stated by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu during his visit to Pakistan. Furthermore, Indonesia, being the largest Muslim state in terms of population, has offered defence equipment to Pakistan in these hours of need. On the other hand, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has offered an unequivocal support to Pakistan’s stance over Kashmir. All this assistance will not merely pull Pakistan out of the quagmire of instability but will also earn goodwill for it and will be vital to the protection of all these states’ national interests as well. Indeed, international politics is a game of relative gains – no one is here to bolster another without purpose.
In such conditions, Pakistan should act rationally — keeping her national interests supreme. Foreign policy is the key with which a state can unlock the flow of resources and capital beyond its expectations.
Geographical concerns of Pakistan
In terms of geography, Pakistan is neighboured by four countries and four different sorts of situations: (i) China, which is one of the world’s biggest economies, is trying to ‘energise’ its nation through massive oil imports; (ii) India, Pakistan’s arch-rival and enemy of its existence; (iii) Afghanistan, a war-torn state that blames Pakistan for all its destruction; and (iv) Iran, which needs to be engaged with Pakistan especially in its post-sanctions period. Unfortunately, only one of these four neighbours, that is, China, respects and takes care of Pakistan’s national interests through the promotion of economic development.
The Islamic bomb factor
Meanwhile, Pakistan is the only Muslim state having nuclear weapons, which somehow is the cause of its survival in the global arena. Being a nuclear-armed state and due to its unrelenting support to the Kashmiris in their just cause of freedom along with its unceasing demand that the issue must be resolved as per the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, Pakistan has become a thorn on the side of India as well as of the West. The “New Great Game” of the West cannot even be initiated if Pakistan is not made a stakeholder to it. Fortunately, it is the “Islamic bomb” that has deterred the giants not to destabilize Pakistan directly; otherwise Pakistan may have been turned into what the Middle East is today, a long time ago. Moreover, peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved through Pakistan. Gwadar port, which in the global opinion is a game-changer not only for Pakistan but also for the entire region, is also of vital importance in this regard as its development and functioning is possible only because of the greatest deterrence that Pakistan can pose – the Islamic bomb.
Interests of other global players in Pakistan
- Pakistan is of critical importance in making the “New Great Game” a reality.
- Nepal wants to boost its bilateral relations with Pakistan.
- Italy wants good bilateral relations with Pakistan in trade and defence sectors.
- South Korea has already offered to build a ship yard at Gwadar.
- CARs are interested to join CPEC and provide energy and trade to Pakistan.
- Belarus and Ukraine have also offered us good defence and trade relations.
Protecting national interests of Pakistan
- There are a number of facets in improving Pakistan’s international standing as it has the potential to regulate some of the finest diplomatic negotiations in the global arena. If Pakistan successfully converts following points into reality, all its enemies, especially India, would be lesser threats and irritants to the state.
- Completion of CPEC should be the pivotal concern of Pakistan.
- Inception of cordial Saudi-Iran relations is a possibility that only Pakistan can explore.
- Pakistan has a potential to play a leading role in the OIC as it is the only Muslim nuclear state.
- Sensitizing Indian brutality in Kashmir on all global forums.
- Kashmiris’ right of self-determination should be demanded to mitigate Indian dominance.
- Civil-nuclear deal with the US after the pattern of Indo-US deal should be demanded.
- The US should be taken into confidence by exercising the writ of the state on the issues such as insurgency and terrorism.
- Pakistan should prove false all the allegations of sponsoring terrorism.
- Pakistan should strive hard to bring peace in Afghanistan; this will further diminish Indian influence there.
- Deeper economic ties with EU should be developed by promoting Pakistan’s domestic products in the international market.
- Relations with Russia can be vital to Pakistan’s interests as the timing is perfect due to increasing Indo-US bonhomie. This could satisfy Pakistan’s economic and strategic demands.
- As the CARs are interested in Gwadar, Pakistan should take the advantage of the situation and restore air links with these states.
- Projects such as CASA-1000; TAPI; IP gas pipeline should be brought into the limelight to strengthen the ties with CARs, Afghanistan and Iran. This will help Pakistan to pull herself out of the shackles of energy crisis.
- Pakistan should promote its export of manpower to the Middle Eastern countries to become a stakeholder in their development. This will directly boost up Pakistan’s economy in terms of remittances.
- In short, Pakistan is the most significant player in the global arena. Its strategic location and the presence of enormous natural resources make it a potential great power of the 21st century. Pakistan can utilize its existing powers only if it is able to transform its institutions into inclusive ones. Some vigorous institutional reforms are required to boost up the efficiency and efficacy of the state to compete in the world of realistic paradigm. Although Pakistan has made blunders in the past, yet it could make even more if the institutions are not strengthened. Hence, with the above-mentioned suggestions, Pakistan can use all its cards in its best interest.
The author is a graduate from Mehran UET Jamshoro and a qualifier of CE-16 (written).