The Changing Paradigm of Foreign Policy By Naghmana A Hashmi

The Changing Paradigm of Foreign Policy By Naghmana A Hashmi

FOREIGN policy problems are inherently complex and consequently, making foreign policy decisions a complicated task with wide-ranging ramifications. The foreign policy environment is typically characterized by a high level of uncertainty, considerable risk, and sometimes incomplete information, and decisions often have to be made in unfamiliar settings. Decisions are sometimes made under time and information constraints; involve value-tradeoffs and sunk costs; are influenced by perceptions and misperceptions, images and belief systems, emotions, and internal political and economic calculations; and are shaped by the personality of leaders, miscalculations, agendas, and interests. Foreign policy decisions are also influenced by the personality of leaders, the foreign policy environment, international and domestic factors, decision setting, and decision dynamics.

In this complicated environment, Foreign Policy becomes the skill of management of a country’s external affairs in pursuit of its national interests, it is, therefore, imperative to spell out what these interests are and how best they can be protected and promoted. Broadly Pakistan’s national interests are described as safeguarding independence and territorial integrity, promoting economic growth and development, strengthening of internal political stability and harmony and the safeguarding of the nation’s cultural identity and values.

For achieving these objectives, it is important to comprehend the normative, static, and structural compulsions that define Pakistan’s policy orientation. For Pakistan the normative compulsion is a constitutive element, that including ideology, culture, values and religion. Safeguarding of the nation’s cultural identity and values based on its Islamic identity is, therefore, of fundamental importance. To what extent Pakistan’s Islamic identity provides explanations for its foreign policy is, however, debatable, particularly when in the conduct of foreign policy and international relations, national interest predominantly dictates the final orientation of foreign policy rather than identity or ideology.

The Islamic identity is often besought as a key element in Liaquat Ali Khan’s decision to turn down the official invitation from the Soviet Union in 1949 and visit the United States in May 1950 because the “godless” communist ideology of the Soviet Union tinkered with Pakistan’s religious sensitivities. However, in the case of People’s Republic of China, a communist state, this ideological aspect was completely sidelined. Pakistan was the first Muslim and only the third non-communist country to recognize Communist China and initiated bilateral relations with China despite being part of the military defence alliances with the United States as this decision rightly served the long-term strategic interest of Pakistan.

The interplay of Islamic identity and national interests is also apparent in Pakistan’s outreach to the Muslim world. This outreach was sporadic in the initial years as Pakistan’s national interest dictated a pro-Western foreign policy and a less enthusiastic response to Arab nationalism. National interest dictating foreign policy choices is a refrain both for Pakistan and the Muslim world. This is obvious in the less than enthusiastic support Pakistan receives on the issue of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. It also became evidently clear when Pakistan invoked the Muslim states after India revoked Article 370 granting Jammu and Kashmir semi-autonomous status in August 2019. The most graphic example of national interest dominating Muslim identity and empathy is the response of the Muslim world particularly some of the closest Arab Muslim neighbours of Gaza who are watching in silence the horrific genocide of the innocent and hapless Palestinians.

The fixation with traditional paradigm of security as a defence against external threats is a static and permanent strand in Pakistan’s foreign policy. These threat perceptions originate from Afghanistan due to the unresolved issue of Durand Line in the West and from India in the East because of the conflict over Kashmir (IIOJK), the core security problem for Pakistan. This, combined with some leading Muslim countries’ pursuit of peace with Israel, directs to changing strategic realities that Pakistan’s foreign policy must contend with in the future. The genocide in Gaza may have deferred the moves by Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel but the eventual normalization is still on the cards.

The structural compulsion symbolizes policy inputs from the international system, and, specifically, great powers over which we exercise little or no control. The growing strategic rivalry between the United States and China directly impacts Pakistan’s foreign policy. The fact that India is the strategic partner of choice for the U.S.A. and a counterweight to China, makes our predicament even more difficult. Pakistan-India relations have only deteriorated over time coming now to almost a point where recovery seems elusive, especially in the light of India’s unilateral actions in Kashmir. Similarly Pakistan-Afghanistan relations remain a challenge despite the incredible sacrifices Pakistan has made for Afghanistan since 1979.

Today we are faced with an unstable Afghanistan with the Taliban and their extremist ideology gripping Afghanistan, the threat posed by indigenous and external terrorist groups, and widespread instability in the Middle East. These threats justify and contribute to a militarized security posture that dictates our approach to regional security. These traditional security dynamics will persist for the foreseeable future in our foreign policy, making any meaningful forward movement for improving relations with our neighbours particularly, with India difficult if not impossible.

Successive governments in Pakistan, even if they want to commence trade relations, will continue to face difficulties justifying cooperative engagement with India unless India reverses the abrogation of Article 370. Under the third term of Modi, which appears increasingly likely, the possibility of resolving the Kashmir issue will only be wishful thinking. Our foreign policy will be constrained to look for other regional opportunities and alignments to boost our economic recovery, an essential element of our national security. This requires dynamic and consistent efforts on part of all stakeholders in the country.

Structural imperatives stemming from an international system over which we have little control have also impacted Pakistan’s foreign policy, mostly after the 1979 and 2001 invasions of Afghanistan respectively. At both occasions, it was virtually impossible for Pakistan to desist from the developing security situation on its Western border. During both episodes, while Pakistan remained the United States’ most steadfast ally, but it retained its close ties with China, demonstrating that Pakistan could ably balance its foreign policy in a way that best serves our national interest both short and long term national interests. .

The defining feature of the 21st century at the global geostrategic level is, and will remain the growing US-China competition and rivalry. This has put Pakistan in an uneasy position as it seems determined to keep the balance between its all-weather strategic cooperation with China and its transactional relationship with the U.S.A. This is evident in the United States’ sharp criticism of BRI of witch China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the pilot project and the most critical corridor for the overall success of BRI.

As China grows in economic and military strength developing economic, political and security links worldwide, the intensity of the China-US rivalry will slowly but surely rise. The U.S.A. has declared China as the number one security threat and is determined to implement its policy of containment of China. China and the U.S.A. are now caught in what has been described as Thucydides Trap by Graham Allison in his book, “Destined for War”. Whether in the management of their relationship, the US and China are able to avoid a war is a question that defies any clear and definitive answer.

The strengthening of the US Alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, the deepening of Strategic partnership with India, the revival of the QUAD, the establishment of AUKUS, US economic and trade sanctions against China and efforts to incite political trouble inside China, rearming Japan and courting the Philippines and Vietnam in South-East Asia are efforts to dilute China’s growing influence. Any escalation of conflict between the U.S.A. and China will engulf the Indian Ocean and will bring India and Pakistan face to face in our backyard. As we attempt to navigate between the two powers, Pakistan’s two key foreign policy goals- ensuring economic recovery and traditional security- will become targets if we do not step carefully in this minefield of geostrategic and geo-economic flux.

The challenge of our foreign policy is to avoid courting the displeasure of the U.S.A. while at the same time maintain our strategic partnership with China on solid footing and fast tract the completion of the second phase of CPEC and high quality development and industrialization of Pakistan. Promote regional peace with neighbouring countries which will curtail military threats that compromise economic gains; and, finally, continued global multilateral engagements to eliminate the scenarios where we are pushed to make difficult choices.

—The writer is former Ambassador, based in Islamabad.

Email: naghmanahashmi40@gmail.com

The Changing Paradigm of Foreign Policy By Naghmana A Hashmi

Source: https://pakobserver.net/the-changing-paradigm-of-foreign-policy/

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