Drawing a fine balance in foreign policy | By Dr Muhammad Khan


Drawing a fine balance in foreign policy

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has initiated a new debate in the foreign policy of Pakistan. The controversy arose because of untimely visit of Prime Minister, Imran Khan to Moscow and thereafter appearance of a letter from United States, State Department, questioning the preferences in the foreign policy of Pakistan.

Rather, tackling the issue at the level of foreign office, the political forces in Pakistan involved themselves in an un-necessary open debate with ambiguous orientations of various political parties, institutions and prominent national personalities.

The imprudent debate and political squabbling denuded the state secrets and confidentially of national policies and redlines of Pakistani national interests.

This mainly happened because of the no-confidence move against the incumbent Government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Taking cover of the US threatening letter, Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the opposition parties and their leadership as traitor and part of so-called US strategy of regime change.

At Islamabad Security Dialogue, Prime Minister Imran Khan further criticised the opposition and particularly a “powerful” country, indeed the United States and west for their prejudices and biases against Pakistan and Imran Khan.

These statements were more of political in nature to shed the impending pressure of no-confidence.

The same forum was later addressed by General Bajwa, the powerful Army Chief of Pakistan.

Unlike political statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan, General Bajwa took a different approach of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and called for its immediate stoppage.

Indeed, the General took a dimension which is strategic in nature and directly related to smaller states like Pakistan.

General Bajwa said in his statement that, “despite legitimate security concerns of Russia, its aggression against a smaller country cannot be condoned.

” This should have been the theme, rather providing Russia with the clean passage of invading an independent state.

Today, if Pakistan supports Russian invasion, what if another major power try to invade Pakistan tomorrow.

Therefore, there was a requirement of drawing a clear line and course of action for any major power while dealing with smaller states.

In the past, U.S has been involved in the regime change and invasions of many smaller states which has same connotation as for Russia.

On the basis of US invasions, Russian invasion cannot be justified. General further said that, “Pakistan has consistently called for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities.

We support immediate dialogue between all sides to find a lasting solution to the conflict.” The dichotomy in the statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan and General Bajwa during their speeches in the Islamabad Security Dialogue has necessitated clarity in the foreign policy position of Pakistan.

Indeed, Pakistan has its interests with all major powers and all regions; therefore there is a requirement to draw a fine balance in the relationship with all of them.

This can be ensured by formulating and pursuing a balance foreign policy. Such a foreign policy would enable Pakistan to independently formulate and pursue its foreign policy.

While defining an independent foreign policy, it is generally said that, a state has independent foreign policy once it has ‘friendship to all and enmity to none’.

This can be inferred as interests of the state are strictly pursued, preserved and well-being of the people is the real priority and preserved accordingly.

This explanation of the foreign policy is very idealistic and has nothing to do with the reality.

Indeed, the international system is running under the realism and realism is the product of competitive orientation of world driven by anarchy and power politics.

Therefore in a world which is governed by realism and power politics, idealism is unlikely is to prevail.

Besides, the world is highly globalized and interdependent where each state has dependency over other(s).

A survey of the foreign policies of states including major powers indicates that, all have biases and prejudices in their foreign policies owing to complicated nature of the evolving world.

The foreign policy decisions of the states somehow have pre and post inferences on the foreign policy decision making process of the state.

This logical debate leads to another aspect of foreign policy; a balance foreign policy by a state.

The balance in the foreign policy would entails keeping a balance in the relationship between major powers, middle powers and smaller states purely on the basis of national interests.

For a state like Pakistan, there is need to formulate and pursue a balance foreign policy. Since it has key geopolitical location which always attracts the interests of major powers, therefore any biases and leaning towards single one or two major powers would jeopardize its national interests and pursuance of long-term objectives of the foreign policy.

A balance and interests driven foreign policy will keep Pakistan relevant for all major powers as well as for rest of the world, providing avenues for a wider and longer political, economic and strategic pursuance of its national interests freely.

Formulation and pursuance of such a balance foreign policy needs a critical re-evaluation of existing contents of the foreign policy objectives, the contemporary methodology of its political and diplomatic interpretations and format of its pursuance vizviz international best practices.

Domestic party politics of Pakistan should not dictate and derail the foreign policy objectives of Pakistan.

Therefore, let’s have a consensus on national issues with a professional approach towards formulation and pursuance of foreign policy of Pakistan.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.



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