THE transformation in the global politics entailing strategic realignment at the regional and global levels has been ensuing new challenges and opportunities for Pakistan. Indeed, without the proper conceptualization and contextualization of the trends, it’s impossible to identify both challenges and opportunities in the international anarchical society. The United States, Russian Federation and China would remain important actors on the global geopolitical landscape. Afghanistan, India, and Iran being neighboring states influence Pakistan’s foreign policy. The shift in their strategic outlook, directly and indirectly, affects the strategic environment of Pakistan. Admittedly, the European Union is a significant international actor, yet its autonomy in strategic decision-making to engage the Eurasian nations is debatable. President Donald Trump hectoring of Europeans leaders during the June G-7 summit in La Malbaie, Canada, and last week NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, exposes their limitations and dependency on the Americans in the pursuit of their objectives in the global politics.
The evolving strategic competition between the United States, Russia, and China obliges Islamabad to revamp its foreign policy. Hence, in the current and emerging strategic environment, the makers of Pakistani foreign policy have to follow the dictum that every state’s priority is its own national interest and thereby these Great Powers only engage Pakistan for the pursuit of their strategic objectives due to its geostrategic location. More precisely, instead of acting their knights or front-line state, Islamabad should only focus on its own national interest and cultivate interdependency with these states. Currently, the United States is cementing its strategic partnership with India and is steadfast to keep its stronghold in Afghanistan.
The increasing significance of India in the Americans strategic calculation and the continuous disappointment of their armed forces in the protracted warfare in Afghanistan resulted in a downturn in Islamabad’s relations with Washington. Trump Administration applauds India’s leadership role in South Asia, the Indian Ocean and throughout the broader region to balance China in the Asian strategic setting. This strategic approach of the administration is a challenge for Pakistan. The Indo-US strategic partnership facilitates New Delhi in the pursuit of its regional and global agenda. Washington supports New Delhi at the international forums against Pakistan. It facilitated India’s entry into Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016, Wassenaar Arrangement in 2017 and Australia Group in 2018.
Pakistan being a neighboring state cannot distance itself from the anarchical situation in Afghanistan. It has been a victim of ungovernable Afghanistan since the Russians invasion in December 1979. Security analysts including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai pointed out that: “Under the full (United States) presence, surveillance, military, political, intelligence, Daesh has emerged.” In addition, the Americans enabled the Indians involvement in Kabul affairs. The presence of Daesh and Indian RAW agents in Afghanistan are obviously challenging for Pakistan’s national security. Despite the colossal efforts, Islamabad has failed to satisfy Ghani government. While continuing its benign policy towards Kabul; Islamabad increase its engagement with Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran to improve the internal situation in Afghanistan. In this context, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization forum ought to be used.
Fortunately, the policy makers of Pakistan are sensible to the emerging trends in the global and regional environment. To balance the Indian military might, Islamabad has opted a look-within and self-help strategy. Its full spectrum nuclear deterrence capability deters India’s military aggression. However, it has to further its capabilities to check effectively the Indians hybrid warfare tactics. Pakistan’s furthering its strategic partnership with China and improving its relations with Russia are important balancing arrangements in the international politics. Perhaps, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that is a flagship project of China’s One-Belt One Road initiative is a mammoth economic opportunity. According to Pakistan Business Council estimate “the CPEC account for 20% of the country’s GDP over the next five years and boost growth by about 3 percentage points.” Moreover, in the regional connectivity, it has virtually made Pakistan a pivot of Central Asia, Eurasia, West Asia and South Asia. The opportunity transformation into reality needs proactive policies to create manpower to exploit the benefits of the project.
Although the tension in the Arabian/Persian Gulf undermines Pakistan relations with Iran and Arab states, yet it has been struggling to cultivate better relations with all of them. It has adopted a neutral stance in both Yemen 2014 and Qatar 2017 crises and has astutely tried to sustain cordial relations with Riyadh. Simultaneously, it has been improving its relations with Tehran. Last year, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Tehran to improve a trust between the security establishments of both states. On July 16, 2018, the Iranian Chief of General Staff Major Gen Mohammad Bagheri reciprocated by visited General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. During the meeting, both sides agreed to intensify military-to-military cooperation that will be having a “positive impact on peace and security in the region”. These initiatives are impressive but Islamabad has to keep a balance between Riyadh and Tehran. To conclude, the transformation in the global politics is unavoidable. Therefore, Islamabad revamps its foreign policy to minimize the challenges and maximize its political, economic and military advantages.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.