Strategic dimensions of Pakistan’s foreign policy    | By  Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi


Strategic dimensions of Pakistan’s foreign policy

THE foreign policy of a country is the embodiment of its ideological geostrategic, economic and geopolitical imperatives guarded by its national interests. In this context, the credo of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to protect and defend our strategic goals. And above all, in this changing globalized world,  Pakistan ardently desires to adopt the notion of strategic autonomy vis-à-vis the country’s foreign policy which argues to use the ability of a state to pursue its national interests and adopt its preferred foreign policy without depending heavily on other foreign states.

Doctrinally, setting a foreign policy strategy remains the essence of choice, while foreign policy politics is the process of choice. In this context, foreign policy strategy choices are formulated within the context of the international system. Arguably, given the changing dynamics of international relations, Pakistan’s foreign policy is centred on these pivotal parameters: ideology, security, deterrence, peace, geopolitics, economics, trade and climate diplomacy. Upholding of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity remains the foundation pillar of our foreign policy.

Kashmir, the bedrock of our foreign policy: For seven decades, Kashmir remains the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Both our civilian and military establishments have chartered the unflinching resolve of supporting the Kashmiri people cause of freedom and the right of self-determination. ‘’ Jammu and Kashmir dispute will remain a key pillar of Pakistan’s foreign policy. We will continue to lend unstinted moral, diplomatic and political support to the Kashmiri people until the realization of their right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions’, said FM Bilawal Zardari Bhutto while addressing the event of the Kashmir solidarity day.

National security policy: Arguably, the foreign policy and security pillar cooperates closely with the other pillars to advance a comprehensive and integrated approach to preserve our national interests. The National Security Policy (NSP) 2022-2026 articulates a citizen-centric ‘Comprehensive National Security’ framework. It recognises that traditional and non-traditional threats and opportunities together impinge on overall national security. ‘’Formally placing economic security at the core of national security is a significant development because it helps the country achieve the economic stability it has long been aiming to secure. The policy envisions lending Pakistan as an economic base for the world’’.

Good relations with global powers, EU & Gulf states: Today, Pakistan seems an ardent advocate of keeping a balance in its relations with global powers, particularly, the US, China and Russia. We need to make the world powers as much a supporter as possible instead of opposing them. In this perspective, Islamabad will not be part of any Cold War between Beijing and Washington. Despite our growing scope of a strategic relationship with China, Pakistan continues its pragmatic policy of marinating friendly, viable and sustainable webs of bilateralism with China, US and Russia. US’ no reservation regarding the Pakistan-Russia oil deal is a good sign. In this era of a globalized world, Pakistan is wedded to the notion of its foreign policy based on strategic autonomy. At the same time, Islamabad is pursuing a policy of its healthy relations with Belgium. To revive its GSP+ status in the EU club is the first policy priority line.

Similarly, Pakistan also enjoys extensive cultural & defence/military ties with most of the Arab League member states. Pakistan also has extensive trade ties with Arab League states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  Saudi Arabia is ranked as Pakistan’s second largest trading partner after the United States.

China-Pak strategic relations: In 2021, both China and Pakistan completed 70 years of their bilateral relationship. Successive leaders of Pakistan and China have invested in the relationship which is now deeply entrenched at the grassroots level. A vision and idealism guide this relationship. Both countries demonstrate not only a mutuality of interests, but also an earnest desire to further broaden this partnership. Pakistan considers its relationship with China to be the cornerstone of its foreign policy, while China calls Pakistan an all-weather and iron brother. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a framework of regional connectivity. CPEC will not only benefit China and Pakistan, but will have a positive impact on Iran, Afghanistan, India, Central Asian Republic and the region. Pakistan’s Chief of the Army, General Asim Munir performed a four-day official visit (23-26 April) where he held meetings with the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to discuss military cooperation between the two countries.

Nuclear deterrence imperatives vs relations with India: Since 2001, in order to maintain strategic stability, Pakistan adopted a policy of minimum deterrence which was subsequently transformed into a full spectrum deterrence because of India’s cold start doctrine.  By all means, Pakistan’ nuclear strategy is centred to counter strategic instability in the South Asian region. Though Modi’s external relations policy pose great threat to the future of strategic peace in the region, Pakistan believes in promoting peace with its neighbours. The current visit of FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to attend the SCO forum in New Delhi (May 0 4) is highly indicative of this fact. Yet India’s Jaishankar’s toxic and hawkish comment on Kashmir reflects BJP’s Government anti-peace mindset in the region.

Pakistan believes in extending its trust-built relations with the Bretton woods institutions—the World Bank and IMF in the same manner as Islamabad has revived this relations with the FATF. Currently Pakistan and the IMF are constantly engaged in reaching a staff level agreement but the IMF seems to adopt an ostracized approach towards Pakistan which is alarming to the future status of relations between the IMF and the Government of Pakistan.

Indus water treaty (IWT): To uphold the terms stipulated in the Indus Water Treaty remains the striking feature of Pakistan foreign policy. But the adamant, hegemonic and illegal Indian policy vis-a-vis the IWT—endorsed by India’s current mala-fide stance has caused India and Pakistan’s contentious relations.

Despite the fact that after the US troops’ departure from Afghanistan in August, 2021, Pakistan has been constantly targeted by the Afghan based non-state actors (NSAs), it has been the priority of the Pakistan government to maintain peaceful relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan expects from the Kabul-based Taliban Government to develop trust with Pakistan. The currently held 5th round of the trilateral dialogue between China, Afghanistan and Pakistan (06 May) is centred on pushing the Kabul Government to address the issue of terrorism along the Pak-Afghan border.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law. He deals with the strategic and nuclear issues.

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