Foreign policy: Maintaining a balance | By Dr Muhammad Khan


Foreign policy: Maintaining a balance

THE visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Russia at a critical stage is being viewed as a major shift in the foreign policy of Pakistan.

This assumption is further strengthened by the nervousness in the bilateral relationship between Pakistan and United States ever since Joe Biden took as the President.

Earlier, President Trump pursued Pakistan to play a role towards negotiations between Washington and Afghan Taliban which Islamabad performed to its optimal.

Indeed, it was an intimate Pakistani role that made possible the withdrawal of US troops from troubled Afghanistan which Washington did not regard.

Even President Biden did not bother to make a telephonic call to Prime Minister Imran Khan, thanking him of Pakistani role towards a peaceful pull-out of US and NATO troops and diplomats from all over the globe from Afghanistan before Taliban’s take over in mid-August 2021.

Nevertheless, the routine bilateral and diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and United States are continuing without any snag and strain.

The military exercises Falcon Talon” between Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and United States Air Force (USAF) were conducted from February 26, 2022 to March 5, 2022 (amid Russo-Ukraine war) with lot of zeal and zest.

During these exercises, USAF fighter jets remained deployed at operational base of Pakistan Air Force.

Apart from this, U.S and Pakistani officials are regularly interacting with their Pakistani respective counter-parts without any negative statements emanating from any capital.

Even US officials are meeting with the leadership of Pakistani opposition parties, a practice never undertaken by any Russian or Chinese official.

This means that, there is no shift in the foreign policy of Pakistan which essentially remains same as it was before the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Moscow.

Analysing the visit from the perspective of rational actor model approach of foreign policy, “the main actor in foreign policy is a rational individual who can be relied on to make informed, calculated decisions that maximize value and perceived benefits to the state”.

In the light of this theoretical approach of foreign policy, the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan could have been more debated, deliberated and calculated by the foreign office of Pakistan.

It was more of an impulsive and personal decision made by Premier during the Beijing Olympics which he had to honour despite a change in regional and international situation with war in the wider Eurasian region.

Pakistan may not have received any economic or strategic advantage from the visit however; Premier Imran Khan remained in the headlines of international media for quite some time.

The visit was euphoria and embracement for Vladimir Putin and Russia amongst the world-wide condemnation of Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

Indeed, irrespective of change in governments and leadership, Pakistan needs to practice a balanced and independent foreign policy as enshrined in its constitution.

Pursuing a neutral and independent foreign policy will keep it away from the controversies, it is undergoing currently.

It is worth mentioning that foreign policy is the tool of political relationship and diplomacy is the tool of foreign policy which nations conduct to attain their national interests.

Reviewing the guiding principles of Pakistan’s foreign policy, there is a wholesome package regarding formulation and implementation of its foreign policy which was well conceived by the founding fathers of Pakistan and later incorporated in the Constitution of Pakistan.

One of the principles of the foreign policy of Pakistan is to “develop friendly relations with all countries of the world, especially major powers and immediate neighbours.

” This is the most significant principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy if interpreted from various aspects and practiced even in the contemporary era of globalization.

The guidelines for the foreign policy of Pakistan were provided by father of nation, Quaid i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and further preserved in Article 40 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

In February 1948, Quaid i Azam outlined the foreign policy of Pakistan in a broadcast talk to American media in the wordings; “Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.”

Indeed, as a reflection of domestic policies, the foreign policy of Pakistan “seeks to protect, promote and advance Pakistan’s national interests in the external domain”.

With a clear direction to have a friendliness and goodwill towards all states makes Pakistan undisputed without any leaning towards any major power or bloc at international level.

This is a win-win approach, which can be achieved very conveniently, had Pakistani ruling elites and foreign office debated and deliberated upon it.

The geopolitics of Pakistan make it a very relevant state for all major powers; United States, Russia, China and even Europe at large.

Whereas maintaining a balance between all will create a favourable situation for Pakistan while any unilateral inclination towards any one of them may create a dilemma for the state of Pakistan.

In its over seven decades of post independent history, there have been inconsistent, hasty and impulsive pursuance of the foreign policy of Pakistan, mostly under pressure or else individual decisions.

The oscillation from one extreme to another extreme only resulted into momentary gains at times with a long list of failings at; political, economic and strategic levels.

This long list of flaws also includes the loss of half of the country and contemporary political and economic vulnerabilities, facing the state of Pakistan.

Under the contemporary changing international scenario, Pakistan must revisit the implementation strategy of its foreign policy with a clear objective to attain its laid-down national interests while adhering the internationally recognised norms and maintaining a balance towards all major powers.

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


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