Foreign policy plays an instrumental role in the development, stature, achievements and power of any state. Against this backdrop, an appraisal of Pakistan’s foreign policy becomes quite necessary. To start with a blanket statement that Pakistan’s foreign policy has not been a success for the whole span of the country’s existence would not be wrong as its achievements have been far from considerable rather the failures have outperformed the successes.
The underlying reasons for our foreign policy failures have been its inflexibility and a gulf between the policy objectives and absence of realistic practical measures for their attainment. The emerging global political scenario is such that the country no longer affords to pursue static foreign policy goals with little or no scope for adjustments.
In an age when Western thinkers are looking at the world through the lenses of ‘Clash of Civilisations’, ‘End of History’, and ‘Post-Ideological Age’, besides considering that contemporary international relations are determined by the concept of Complex Interdependence, our policymakers must understand how developed states are bringing about changes and adjustments to their respective foreign policies and how they go about pursuing the goals and objectives of these foreign policies.
It must be noted that though ideology is not a significant driving force in the contemporary inter-state relationship, the thesis of Samuel P Huntington of ‘Clash of Civilisations’ notwithstanding but identity is indeed an important element in today’s foreign policy of states. On the contrary ideology is quite a significant aspect of Pakistan’s foreign policy while there is little, if any, emphasis on the identity aspect in our foreign policy. Today if the entire world is looking at this country’s ideology with suspicion, it is mainly due to both naivety and insincerity of our policy framers. Resultantly, despite claiming peaceful ideals today, the name of the country is associated with terrorists and terrorism. However, many of our actions have also been responsible for this global perception about us.
Pakistan is comparatively a small state vis-a-vis other Middle Powers like India. But the role it has been performing in the international arena is not commensurate with its relative size. Though Pakistan has a large population of around 220 million, the latent talents of people have not been explored. Therefore, instead of contributing anything positive to the national development, the population has become a huge burden. Pakistan has been marred by persistent social chaos which has been aggravating with the passage of time and today there is no remedy for it. The rulers of the country should have reconciled the differences among the people and must have tried to allay the spectre of discontent among different nations instead of pursuing irrelevant, incompatible and walloping expensive tasks on the international landscape.
Geographically, Pakistan lies in such a region which is of immense strategic importance. So keeping in view here geographically delicate and subtle location Pakistan should have been extra cautious rather friendly in its relationship with the neighbours. But unfortunately in the initial years, Pakistan and India became perennial if not permanent foes, whereas our relations with Afghanistan could never be peaceful. However, Pakistan is less to blame for our strained relations with India and Afghanistan.
Today developed states put their political disputes aside and expand their trading relations for economic and social development. The ever-growing trading ties between China and India are a case in point and Pakistani decision-makers must learn from both of its neighbours. The terms international relations and economic relations are used interchangeably as the world has become too interdependent. Without substantial economic development, a state stands nowhere. Therefore in the history of inter-state relationship, economics have always occupied a centre stage. In Pakistan’s foreign policy, economic interests have always been of secondary importance. For instance in Pakistan’s relations with the US, Russia, India, Afghanistan or the European Union, the issues that have been cropping up from time to time have always been of strategic nature. Even in case of the regional-level organisations which have been primarily established for socioeconomic development like the ECO and Saarc, Pakistan has got nothing substantial due to its own faulty policies. This means that improving the lot of the common man though economic development has not been a goal of the country’s foreign policy.
Starting with the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century to the present day computer world, technology has been the sine qua non for national development. Therefore, in a country’s foreign policy, procurement and importation of technology occupies a significant place. For a country like Pakistan with a poor technological infrastructure it becomes even more exigent to formulate an eclectic technological policy not only to buttress the economic development but also to fulfil its security needs, besides improving the standard of living of the common people.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2018.