Long-term foreign policy

IT is a good augury that the challenge thrown by the new US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, which impacts upon Pakistan as well, has given rise to a productive and healthy debate at different levels on future direction of the country’s foreign policy. After recommendations drawn by three-day moot of the Pakistani envoys, Parliamentary Committee on National Security Tuesday recommended the formulation of a long-term foreign policy by taking all stakeholders into confidence. The members emphasised improvement in diplomatic relations with Afghanistan and formulation of Pakistan’s narrative by taking all the countries in the region on board.
There is a general complaint and impression that most elements of Pakistan’s foreign policy were reactive not proactive and this ad-hoc approach has harmed Pakistan in many ways. This is true of our relations with the United States and to some extent with India and Afghanistan. Throughout the history we struggled to respond or counter moves by Washington in our bilateral relations and that is why there is no depth in ties and these remain transitory in nature. The present phase too is a reaction to the new policy of President Donald Trump but it is encouraging that not only a healthy domestic debate is underway but consultations with regional countries are also being done to formulate an effective and coherent response. There is logic in demand by the parliamentary committee that a long-term policy on Afghanistan should be drawn in coordination with regional countries. Already Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran hold the firm view that there was no military solution and the conflict should be resolved through political dialogue and national reconciliation. It is hoped that on-going consultations would bring more clarity to their position and they would be able to take new initiatives and harmonise their policies to help realise the objective of durable and sustainable peace and stability in war-torn Afghanistan. We would also urge policy-makers to give due importance to Parliament and formulate long-term foreign policy especially vis-à-vis the United States and India anchored in recommendations of the lawmakers. We have been ignoring Parliament in the process of foreign policy formulation and paid a heavy price in the past and as such this attitude should now change for the better.

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