PM Shehbaz’s Foreign Policy Challenge By Shanzay Mustafa

PM Shehbaz’s Foreign Policy Challenge By Shanzay Mustafa

IN May 2023, in an article titled, “BJP, Pakistan and chances of conciliation for regional peace”, I argued how Pakistan, for the past decade, is facing not just a hostile Indian neighbor, but a very hostile and anti-Pakistan, anti-Muslim Bharatiya Janata Party.The Indian Elections this time are one of a kind. Prime Minister Modi’s propaganda machinery has worked tirelessly to contribute to an agenda based systemic depiction of why Muslims are not an asset, but a harmful burden to the Indian government. In the past decade, in India, Muslims have been targeted left, right, and center.

This time, however, Modi is faced with a far greater challenge – the anti-thesis of BJP’s rhetoric. As is evident, a whole anti-Modi machinery is simultaneously at work, trying to prove how Modi’s biggest weapons, the media and the military, have been used to manipulate the minds of the Indian populace. However, those willing to unmask the true intent and formulas of the Modi government are faced with new forms of propaganda against them. For instance, Indian influencer and Social Media Activist Dhruv Rathee’s recent social media videos are going viral for warning the masses of the vicious propaganda used by the Modi government, using historic facts and how leaders have used such tactics to control the people in the past. In response, in a recent desperate attempt, Dhruv and his wife were labelled Pakistani. It was alleged that the couple resides in Karachi, under the Pakistani military’s protection.

The Pakistan connection has always been a key driver in the extremist realms of Modi psychology. It sells. But Pakistan, on the other hand, has sped up fostering improved regional alliances. Pakistan and Iran just met, and everything is grandiose about the meeting of the two sides. For context, at present, Iran is deeply embroiled in regional tensions with Israel while Israel continues to wage a genocidal war against Palestinians. Pakistan and Iran, just recently, engaged in cross-border missile attacks, resulting in uncertainty in future relations between the two nations. As per media reports, President Raisi’s visit is the first of its kind by any Iranian President in a period of eight years. Hence, the grandiosity of the visit cannot be and is not being undermined by any important stakeholders so far. But the US administration, over the years, has made clear abundantly the repercussions of trade expansion between Iran and Pakistan. Moreover, the US has warned Pakistan of possible sanctions because of its improved relations with Iran.

China, a major US rival, has already signaled towards contributing to a possible anti-thesis of the current global order. The current order is self-evident. Israel’s genocidal war on Palestine has further established a strongly visible world order. The European Union and NATO have repeatedly reinforced a strong pro-Israel stance, while China and Russia have sided with Iran’s pro-Palestine stance. The world is divided.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s strategic alliances and recent diplomatic overtures have strengthened its position in the region.Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s recent visit to Pakistan marked a significant milestone in bilateral relations, with agreements on trade, energy, and security cooperation. This strengthening of ties comes at a crucial time, as Pakistan navigates the challenges posed by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Pakistan’s cooperation with Iran is significant, particularly in light of the US-China rift and US-Iran conflicts.

Pakistan’s relationship with the US is complicated, with historic alliance and recent strains, particularly with the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan’s relationship with China is significant, with China becoming an important economic and strategic partner. The recent iCube-Qamar lunar mission, launched in cooperation with China, demonstrates the growing cooperation between the two nations.Furthermore, Pakistan’s recent cooperation with Saudi Arabia with future Saudi investment in Pakistan on the cards,has bolstered its economic and strategic partnership. Thus, the PM Shehbaz government has successfully managed to balance its relationship with both the Saudi Kingdom and Iran. While Pakistan is yet to navigate the future of its relationship with the Taliban-led Afghanistan, it is evident that national security remains a top priority for the current government.

In India, as the election season is in full swing, Modi’s anti-Muslim stance is gaining traction. Previously, even the Pulwama false flag attack was executed right before the 2019 Indian elections by the Modi government. Modi’s Kashmir stance has also been a big win for the BJP. However, in the face of India’s hostile rhetoric and actions, Pakistan must continue to foster its regional alliances and engage in diplomatic efforts to promote peace and stability. The Indian elections may have reinforced divisive politics, but Pakistan’s proactive approach to regional cooperation offers a beacon of hope for a more inclusive and peaceful future. The question is, will Pakistan pay heed to US pressure, or, once again, draw a policy of balancing it relationship within the region amid great powers competition and the escalation of Israel’s genocide of Palestinians?

—The writer is contributing columnist.

Shanzay Mustafa

PM Shehbaz’s Foreign Policy Challenge By Shanzay Mustafa


May 15, 2024

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