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Foreign policy: finding the right balance

Pakistan has continually strived for a balanced foreign policy that looks to keep the objectives of Pakistan as well as the region in perspective. Pakistan realizes its strategic worth as a major player in the region and has always attempted to keep the peace while not letting anyone undermine its integrity or authority.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has recently said that “peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and an economically integrated region” must be the objective to establish strong and mutually beneficial relations with countries in the region. He said this while speaking at a meeting held at the Prime Minister’s House. The meeting reviewed the country’s foreign policy vis-a-vis current regional and global challenges. The meeting reviewed the current status of Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and strategic partners, and evaluated various policy options in response to different challenges with regard to foreign relations. In the Prime Minister’s opinion, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a cornerstone of the country’s quest for regional connectivity and shared prosperity.

At the end of last year, Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the PM on Foreign Affairs, spoke out on foreign policy initiatives and perspectives of the government and said that it is difficult to quantify foreign policy achievements specially since they might not be tangible. Governments keep the vital interest of the country in mind while making policies which may not be visible but that does not mean they are not in existence. The government has to formulate policies keeping the global situation in mind such as the 2016 EU crisis which was severe. The UK’s Brexit and Trump’s victory have also added a new dimension to foreign affairs and we will have to tread carefully.

An important development is that India has entered into strategic relations with the US and the recent escalation of India with Pakistan is due to it. The US is not giving importance to security balance in the region and to the security of Pakistan and it is building up India’s security militarily and strategically. Pakistan is looking up to new administration; the new government in the US has said that their policy will be well considered with regard to Pakistan.

Pakistan wants to have a peaceful neighbourhood but India has not reciprocated Pakistan’s desire for peaceful co-existence. India is interfering in the internal matters of Pakistan which is unacceptable and not conducive to peace. India does not want to talk about Kashmir rather they always stress on cross-border terrorism. On 8th July 2016, India martyred Burhan Wani which changed the situation. India does not differentiate between terrorism and Intefada going on in Kashmir. Their reaction to the local movement is severe and lethal. Pakistan has unveiled these issues at international fora, i.e., the United Nations and Human Rights Commission. India started escalations on border and staged Uri drama. In garb of that, it postponed SAARC Summit. India has also tried to isolate Pakistan at international forums but has failed in its attempt to do so.

Pakistan’s military has done successful operations against the militants. The operation Zarb-e-Azb and Karachi operation are bearing positive results and terrorism has decreased; this has led to economic indicators showing a positive trend. Investors are once again interested in Pakistan. Our relations with the EU have been stable and positive. The GSP plus status is a positive indicator in this regard. A summit level meeting with the EU in 2017 is expected where all concerns will be addressed.

Pak-China strategic relations have also reached new heights. The CPEC doesn’t need any introduction – it speaks for itself. Not only economic but relations between the two countries also encompass security and counter terrorism co-operation. In international perspective, these are of vital importance. Pakistan has also tried over the past year to build relations with Russia and Central Asian Countries. These are through energy corridor and road connectivity. Gas project CASA-1000 has been finalised and there is also Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

Pakistan has also built good relations with Islamic world especially with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar. Our policy perspective has been non-interference and a balanced policy and to keep our own interest supreme. Our first priority is our own security. Pakistan has maintained good international diplomacy at UN and regional level. We have participated in peace-keeping missions, climate change conference, human rights commission and Security Council. We are also trying to facilitate Pakistan community abroad which has had positive results.

Pakistan also faces some challenges in its foreign policy. We have ups and downs in our relations with the US specially since 2010, 2011 due to the Raymond incident, the Salala attack and the Abbottabad incident. In order to rectify this Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the US and held dialogue with the US administration. Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan also impact relations with the US. Pakistan has taken counter-terrorism initiatives like Zarb-e-Azb but it is not properly acknowledged by Afghanistan. Pakistan has taken steps such as Border Management, and repatriation of refugees. Pakistan’s FATA reforms are also aimed at developing the area which will lead to improvement. Afghanistan is gaining stability and it is better now which is better for Pakistan as Pakistan has long strived for peace in the region.

In diplomacy, positives are built-up and negatives are minimised. Pakistan has secured its territorial integrity, and it has also taken the diplomatic stance that nothing is to be done against Pakistan’s interest and to focus on socio-economic development. There would be no compromise on sovereignty and we adhere to the policy of non-interference and keeping our security the number one priority. As long as we have our long terms goals in sight we should be able to keep our foreign policy objectives on track and moving in the right direction.

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