Evolving global/regional situation and Pakistan | By Col Muhammad Hanif (Retired)


Evolving global/regional situation and Pakistan

WITH no signs of an early end to the Russia-Ukraine war fighting, with the US/NATO countries supporting Ukraine and Russian leadership struggling to win the support of other countries, and the China offered Peace Plan, not being given enough attention, the global security situation is getting complicated day by day. Whereas Russia is willing to have peace talks with Ukraine with the referendum supported areas of Ukraine under its control, Ukraine, fully supported by the US/NATO countries, looks determined to get those areas back from Russia and it is also pressing the US/NATO members hard for soon declaring it a member of the NATO, which Putin has declared that he will not accept at any cost.  Such hard policies of both sides have further exacerbated the situation.

At the same time, mainly due to this war, the inflation at the world level has spiked and the diplomatic relations between the major powers of Europe and Asia are constantly under strain and being adjusted in relation to the Russia-Ukraine war. In this context, the diplomacy of some regional powers and other countries is also under stress. While the world oil production/prices are fluctuating with the focus of the Ukraine supporting countries to curtail Russia’s economic options, Russia is increasing the number of the buyer countries of its oil by offering much subsidized prices, which helps them to fight out the inflation. Under this situation, Russia is strengthening its diplomatic relations with important third world countries.

Whereas the Western countries want China to limit its relations with Russia to constrain the Russian options in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war, China feels this demand as unjustified because it has long term energy oriented and strategic relations with Russia, and it finds it beneficial to secure its long term energy and strategic interests. Rather, to neutralize the ever increasing US/Western diplomatic pressures, China is trying to further consolidate its relations with Russia. As Russia has found China as a major buyer of its gas in lieu of the western buyers, this buyer/seller relationship between China and Russia is being further strengthened, which the West detests.

In view of the above stated scenario, whereas the world seems to be unwittingly getting divided into two blocks in view of their intermingled economic and strategic interests, the major regional countries are trying to readjust their diplomatic relations and trying to keep good relations with both the sides, the US/West and Russia and China. In this regard, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and South Africa are the examples. While these countries are trying to keep good relations with the US/West, in view of cheaper energy and strategic incentives being offered by Russia, they are also trying to advance their friendly relations with Russia, which irks the US/West. In the context of this world/regional situation, following visits and agreements signed are also noteworthy.

The visit of the President of China to Russia and the signing of the agreements to carry forward their strategic and energy related relations, signing of an agreement for friendly relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, establishment of Saudi-Syrian diplomatic relations, reportedly with the Russian mediation, Iran’s efforts to revive the nuclear deal with the US/West and also to advance its relations with Russia, and Turkeys strategy to maintain good relations with both sides are significant. For Pakistan, revival of Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria is an important development which help it to keep good relations with all the three countries. These visits and agreements, centred around Russia-China friendship, also indicate a sense of keeping with the evolving regional/Asian/neighbourly affinity.

The above discussed world/regional situation significantly impacts Pakistan’s economic oriented foreign policy, which Pakistan needs to adjust on a continuous basis to draw maximum economic benefits to address its current economic difficulties. In fact, Pakistan needs to patiently and successfully wade through this complex world/regional scenario to keep good relations with the US/NATO/EU member countries, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea, for ensuring IMF/World Bank/Paris Club/Bilateral level economic support for reviving its economy and for strategic reasons to stabilize Afghanistan, address the issue of terrorism in the region and to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute with India.

Although, advancing energy related/regional oriented strategic relations with Russia will be difficult, but Pakistan has to convince the US that getting cheaper oil/gas from Russia is important to ease its people and economy from the pressures of the rising inflation. Apart from having good relations with all the above mentioned countries, China assumes a central position in Pakistan’s foreign policy and it is very important to advance its CPEC based economic and strategic relations with China for the revival/advancement of Pakistan’s economy and for strengthening its security in relation to India.

Apart from getting loans from the world’s financial institutions and at bilateral level, as Pakistan also needs to boost its exports with speed to increase its forex reserves, its economic oriented foreign policy should develop relations with every country of the world, where it can trade/sell its products and send its manpower abroad. In this context, Pakistan should focus on its relations with the Middle East and the African countries to make those as its market. And, to increase export of value added products and trained manpower at the world level, Pakistan needs to pay constant/special attention to its export industry, IT industry and training of its youths in various skills.

—The writer is also a former Research Fellow of IPRI and Senior Research Fellow of SVI Islamabad.