The quest for security monopolised the entire course of foreign policy options in Pakistan over the decades. The overarching goals of national development, economic stability, people’s prosperity and pursuit of an independent foreign policy as laid down under Principles of Policy in the constitution were compromised. But still, the goal of ensuring national security was not achieved as the country got dismemberment.
The basic challenge to Pakistan in 1947 remains the same even in 2012. In 1947, at the time of independence, Pakistan was concerned about ensuring its sovereignty and security. And in 2012, Pakistan faces the same dilemma of ensuring its security. Over the period of six decades, the foreign policy of Pakistan has revolved around meeting the security challenge from 1947 till today in the year 2012. This single most factor in the foreign policy can be ascertained from the policy guidelines adopted by the parliament this year after November 26, 2011 attack on Salala check post. The very first point in the policy guidelines reads ‘Pakistan’s sovereignty shall not be compromised. The gap between assertion and facts on the ground needs to be qualitatively bridged through effective steps.’ Along with a call for meeting the security requirement, the parliamentary guidelines also emphasised on ensuring an independent foreign policy. The relevant recommendation of the parliament reads ‘The Government needs to ensure that the principles of an independent foreign policy must be grounded in strict adherence to the Principles of Policy as stated in Article 40 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the UN Charter and observance of international law.’ The basic principle of an independent foreign policy and the basic challenge of ensuring national security have been the determinants of Pakistan’s quest for foreign relations. How far the principle of independent foreign policy was compromised on the altar of the alliances, it will be assessed in the following discussion:
The first prime minister of Pakistan Liaqat Ali Khan is criticised of rejecting the former Soviet Union’s invitation and opting to visit the United States. His visit made it crystal clear about the future direction of Pakistan’s foreign policy at the height of the cold war. Pakistan did away with the independent foreign policy and made full-fledged alignment with the United States by mid-1950s, first through a bilateral mechanism and then by joining CENTO and SEATO. At a crucial time of Pakistan’s alignment with the United States-led West, certain emerging powers were seriously pursuing a policy of non-alignment (which ultimately led to creation of Non-Aligned Movement-NAM). Pakistan compromised its principle of an independent foreign policy and rode on the bandwagon of strategic and military alliances. Ironically, the very objective of SEATO alliance was aimed at containing China. But still, our strategists opted to be part of this alliance. However, the stated purpose remained ensuring national security.
The first decade of the new century saw Pakistan becoming non-Nato major ally of the United States and once again serving as the front line state against terrorism. Last year became the most tumultuous in a decade of tense and mistrustful relations between Pakistan and the United States.
However, the 1965 war proved Pakistan’s decision of alignment wrong as Pakistan’s allies refused to support in its war against India. Even in 1971, the allies of Pakistan could not prevent from its dismemberment. The people’s government in 1970s tried to pursue a non-aligned foreign policy for a short span of time.
The military takeover in Pakistan by Gen. Ziaul Haq and Soviet invasion in Afghanistan once again dragged Pakistan and it became a frontline state against communism. Once again, the principle of independent foreign policy was compromised for 10 long years. The first alignment (1950/60s) did not prevent dismemberment of the country and the alignment in 1980s tore apart the social fabric throughout of the country. The country was flooded with drugs, kalashnikov, and sectarianism and refugees’ only to create social hazards in the decades to come. Despite being an integral part of western alliance, Pakistan not only failed in seek a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Kashmir, it also acceded Siachin to the Indian occupation. The alignment in 1980s compromised the peace at large in Pakistan along with the ideal of an independent foreign policy.
On a single telephone call, Gen. Pervez Musharraf once again dragged the country to another Afghan war’ this time against former mujahideen and now Taliban who were nurtured to fight against former Soviet Union. The first decade of the new century saw Pakistan becoming non-Nato major ally of the United States and once again serving as the front line state against terrorism. Last year became the most tumultuous in a decade of tense and mistrustful relations between Pakistan and the United States. It started with CIA contractor Raymond Davis shooting and killing two Pakistanis in broad daylight in Lahore. The situation got bad in May when Osama bin Laden was found and killed in a US raid at a compound near the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. The situation turned from bad to worst when Salala check post was attacked killing 26 Pakistani soldiers. Two fundamental problems have been aggravating the tension between the United States and Pakistan. First, instead of a broad partnership that includes trade, economic and investment ties, the two countries have a one-dimensional transactional relationship centred along security concerns. In the last century, the primary focus was on containing Soviet Union and during the last decade, the relationship was based on defeating the terrorism. The road ahead between Pakistan and the United States seems quite thorny. The Afghan quagmire is not yet settled and the withdrawal timeframe of 2014 approaching very fast. The two countries must engage each other on multiple dimensions and create partnerships to encompass the government, business, and financial sector and civil society. There is no alternate for Pakistan because of divided social fabric, lingering economy, eroding foreign investments, ailing growth and declining exports.
The quest for security monopolised the entire course of foreign policy options in Pakistan over the decades. The overarching goals of national development, economic stability, people’s prosperity and pursuit of an independent foreign policy as laid down under Principles of Policy in the constitution were compromised. But still, the goal of ensuring national security was not achieved as the country got dismemberment. Pakistan has now embarked upon the path of looking around instead of putting its all eggs into one basket. It has started a policy of normalisation with its neighbours’ both immediate and distant.
The thrust seems on economic and trade diplomacy. The slogan of friendship with traditional friends is based on trade and not trade. Only the political stability and putting our house in order would achieve the cherished goals.