Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi concluded his vital marathon diplomatic journey to UAE, Iran, and Turkey, and international foreign affairs experts have reason to believe that Qureshi had two important points on his agenda and has successfully concluded his meetings in Dubai, Tehran, and Ankara. These two important points, according to foreign affairs experts were the Afghan peace initiative and normalisation of relations of Gulf countries with Iran because Tehran is now a leading country on the Chinese map of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The recent Sino-Iran deal for strategic cooperation has obliged several countries to revisit their foreign policies because this deal is changing the regional scenario.
Though China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, particularly UAE, enjoy excellent relations with China, their relations with Beijing are not as historic as with Pakistan. Pakistan is a brotherly country for GCC countries and the strongest strategic ally of China and if any standoff arises at the Strait of Hormuz, Pakistan would be the first country to mediate or facilitate the situation between Iran and GCC countries. As Pakistan’s stakes are higher in this regional water compared to the past, normalisation of relations among Iran and the Gulf countries is the foremost and key point for Pakistan’s economic future.
Regarding the Afghan peace process, it is evident that Pakistan is no more second fiddle to US foreign policy in the region; rather Islamabad is one of the most important partners of the peace broking group comprising Russia, Turkey, China, and Iran. Today, Pakistan is again playing a principal role in redesigning the regional scene as it has been playing since it came into being. Pakistan’s geopolitical positioning always makes it the protagonist at the global theatre. Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan had been taking advantage of being centre stage as a strategic and historic US ally while being a part of all regional developments including CENTO, SEATO, RCD, and in Afghan war prospects.
Let us refresh our memories to get a clear picture of today’s scenario. Pakistan has been part and parcel of all major regional treaties throughout history. The Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) was established in 1955 and dissolved in 1979 (after the Iran Revolution) and Pakistan was the foremost member and player for all regional developments in the region during the 60s and early 70s. ‘Ping-pong’ diplomacy took place in the early 1970s when Pakistan facilitated the China-US for talks during the peak of the Cold War because Pakistan had cordial relations with Peking (Beijing) and at the same time it was a CENTO member.
The Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO was an international organisation for collective defence in Southeast Asia created by the Southeast Asia Collective Defence Treaty, or Manila Pact, signed in September 1954. It was primarily created to block further communist gains in Southeast Asia. It was dissolved in 1977. Again, it was Pakistan that had a lead role in South Asia.
The Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) was a multi-governmental organisation that was originally established on July 21, 1964 by Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey because all were regional members of CENTO. Pakistan was the starting point for the RCD road and rail network and trade.
In the Afghan war theatre, Pakistan was not only a frontline state; rather it played a pivotal role to bridge GCC countries to the United States for the Afghan war funding issues. Now Pakistan is at the centre stage of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as BRI’s flagship project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) goes through Pakistan.
Having a long history of its role as a top regional player, the Foreign Office of Pakistan knows how to manage and whom to manage. Foreign affairs experts of Pakistan are well equipped in handling but also balancing several stakeholders who are as well adversaries of each other. With the help of this expertise, our diplomats are winning our own goals.
The propaganda of India about Pakistan claiming that it has been isolated in the global arena has become a joke and even Indian media is stating that New Delhi stands nowhere compared to Pakistan’s importance in regional issues. Indian media is writing that Indian foreign policy has miserably failed during the last five years. On the other hand, Pakistan, despite its economic issues, has again levitated as the protagonist on the Asian stage. There is no doubt that Indo-US relations could see new highs because of a very strong lobby of Indian Americans sitting in the White House including the US Vice-President. While examining the current situation, it is evident that India’s relations with Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, China and even with Iran are not as comfortable as they were.
It is a time for a fact check for New Delhi; instead of funnelling its resources to bashing Pakistan, it must try to reconstruct a firm grounding for itself. Until then, the debate will continue; who is really becoming isolated and who is running the show in Asia?