No bloc politics



PAKISTAN Foreign Office has put to rest wild speculations that the country has joined the China bloc explaining that Islamabad does not believe in bloc politics. Its spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told a weekly press briefing in Islamabad on Thursday that the country has an “All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” with China while our relations with the United States are perhaps as old as Pakistan itself. Answering a question about a letter written to the US Secretary of State by more than 60 Congressmen about alleged human rights violations in Pakistan, she said, “We do not agree with the characterization of events of May 9 and the situation in Pakistan, as reflected in that letter.”

What the spokesperson said is the new approach of the country in the realm of foreign affairs as Pakistan cannot afford to put all its eggs in one basket because of its limitations and constraints. The country joined the Western bloc – in May 1954, it signed a Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement with the United States, then became a member of SEATO along with the United States, Britain, France, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand and also put its entire weight in the Western bloc by joining the Baghdad Pact (CENTO) with Britain, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. History shows us Pakistan got no worthwhile advantage by joining these apparently highly provocative moves (against the Soviet Union) and instead invited irreparable harm. The Soviet Union reacted sharply when Pakistan joined the Baghdad Pact in 1955 (then called CENTO). Up to that time, the Soviet Union had maintained a neutral stand on the Kashmir dispute and its representatives had abstained from voting whenever this issue came up in the Security Council but thereafter the country adopted a hostile posture. The hostility assumed such alarming proportions that the country had to lose its eastern wing due to Indian aggression which was openly supported and aided by the Soviet Union but Pakistan was still waiting for the 6th American Fleet to arrive and intervene. It was in this backdrop that visionary leaders like Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto laid foundations of a new phase of the foreign policy aimed at taking independent postures keeping in mind the national interests of the country. Of course, there have been some exceptions as well like the decision to join the American war in Afghanistan but bitter lessons of the past are now guiding decisions on crucial regional and global developments. No doubt, Pakistan has a perfect relationship with the time-tested friend China but this is not at the cost of its ties with the United States which is one of the oldest friends, partner of Pakistan, the biggest export market and a major source of foreign exchange earnings. We have been emphasizing in these columns that there is marked difference between the bilateral relationship with the United States and China as cooperation of the former has always been tied to strict adherence to the American agenda in the region and beyond whereas engagement with China has pre-dominant economic orientation with no political or strategic strings attached. This is borne out, apart from many other dimensions, by the epoch-making initiative of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is completing a successful decade of its implementation to the huge economic benefits of Pakistan. It is also because of the timely assistance of friends like China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that Pakistan has so far avoided a feared default. As against the role of these friends, the United States remains unmoved to the economic and financial plight of Pakistan as Islamabad’s repeated requests to use its leverage with the IMF for resumption of the stalled programme have fallen on deaf ears. There is also another test case – Pakistan has once again approached the United States to get its nod for implementation of the pending Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline that is vital to help meet growing energy needs of the country but Washington is not in a hurry to respond despite the fact that further delay in execution of the project would attract huge penalties. As for human rights vis-à-vis May 09 incidents, no country can ignore serious threats to its security and defence and the Pakistan Government is dealing with that black chapter strictly in accordance with constitutional and legal provisions. As pointed out by the spokesperson, Pakistan remains committed to its constitutional obligations to protect the rights and property of all its citizens and, therefore, concerns about rights of a handful of miscreants are unjustified.