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Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Trials, Transitions and Prospects

From isolation to integration, descent to ascent, compromise to cooperation, restricted to diverse, Pakistan’s foreign policy translates trends of challenges, trials and prospects in 71 years.

Though there existed some constants like collaborative partnership with US, ensuring security for Saudi Arabia in Middle East, representation of Kashmir dispute at high noon on all international platforms, much more has reoriented in the evolutionary mechanism, provided regional and geo-strategic situations around the globe.

The emerging trend of Pakistan’s foreign policy seems to shift gears due to certain intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Since the phrases “change” and “revolution” has become a buzz word, enchanted in all avenues of country, where a sea-change is expected; ranging from regional stability, economic prosperity to restoring positive image of Pakistan across world.

Externally, much has changed; the unrestrained reliance on US is replaced with that on China, Pragmatic approaches to ensure dialogue on Kashmir issue dominated over antagonistic attitude towards India, groundbreaking efforts to maintain objective and balanced foreign policy between Tehran and Riyadh is one of the important initiative taken place so far.

Quest for peace and harmony by safeguarding national interests is the linchpin of country’s foreign policy set forth by our founding father Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah; whereby, state’s security is considered as matter of prime concern and Pakistan’s foreign policy is based on such principles.

Presently, however, foreign policy gyrates all around with promises of promotion soft image of Pakistan, flourish trade and improve access to international markets, internationalization of Kashmir dispute, improved regional connectivity anchored with security and stability and nurturing cordial ties with emerging powers.

Legacy of Kashmir dispute with India and subsequent fall heir of varied problems (weak governance, fragile institutions, and economic compulsions) proved to be an ill wind for the new born state.

This outlined the contours of Pakistan’s foreign policy in the respective years with highlighters that were going to squeeze and impact country’s foreign policy objectives in the succeeding years.

Menace of Indian aggression to absorb Kashmir, Afghanistan’s antipathy, existence of major powers in the region along with dread of “war on terror” imposed to Pakistan it is substantial to say that our foreign policy endured reactionary inn most of the cases while dormant in others.

Whatever previous hardships Pakistan has undergone in foregone years, the contemporary regional and global frame work offers promising future.

The dawn of globalization brought transitions in the dynamics of international relations, as former foreign minister Mr. Khursheed Kasuri stated, “The emerging new international economic environment influenced in several different ways by the process of globalization that has placed new responsibilities on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

The new trend of 21st century where politico-economic ties are eminent, the new dynamic of global environment is “regionalism”. States restructure their foreign policies in line with internal demands and external ebbs and flows.

Rising China and rejuvenating Russia represents the changing dynamics of international politics, economic structure.

By kicking-start first trade activities through CPEC, Pakistan has aligned itself on the path of economic development.

The smooth completion of CPEC maneuver is not only pivotal to support dwindling economy of Pakistan but it can also serve as “foreign policy without any parasitic impacts”.

With Iran being keen to join CPEC, Pakistan possess a chance to amplify the marine potential of Gwadar, adding to that Iran can prove to be a long-term ally.

The prospects of Arabian Sea as succeeding trade avenue augments with Gawader and Chabahar. This is the best chance to reconcile relations with Iran as Pakistan saw many ups and downs with it.

Iran being a proactive state, owns sufficient natural resources and better governance. There is nothing more sensible than having a pragmatic neighbor who is on-board. Moreover, the diminishing US shadow is eminent after it lifts the sanctions from Iran which is a positive point.

The combined efforts of Russia, China and Pakistan to withdraw Afghanistan from UN sanctions in 2016 in order to ensure peaceful dialogue between Kabul and Taliban.

As already mentioned the political dynamics are promising; Pakistan must make hay when the sun shines.

For capitalizing what circumstances offers to get an additional ally in the region and to oil the wheels of these collaborations into economic ones with Russia, this is the best chance to avail.Membership of Shanghai Corporation is no doubt, a huge accomplishment; based on mutual accord, Pakistan as a permanent member entails acceptance by Russia and Central Asian state.

Though China is an “all weather friend” of Pakistan rather this time Russia as well, with whom Pakistan was not much warm due to its role in US bloc historically.

Russian inclination towards Pakistan has raised bilateral trade from 33% to 82 %, a positive indicator. Pakistan must remember that life doesn’t give a second chance so past mistakes should not be repeated and foreign policy makers must consider to not be completely relying on single major power.

So far, opportunities knock at the door step of Pakistan, it’s now on the statecraft how it utilizes these opportunities to translate benefits.

Tantalizing the aroma of this regionalization, it is therefore, imperial to undertake proactive stances on multilateral and diplomatic level to if it is to pan out the opportunities and nuances into long drawn significant development. It is, then imperial to hammer out the ins and outs of CPEC in way, Pakistan is free to take its initiatives without being dependent.

The post-election situation is such that people of Pakistan associated all hopes and aspiration to the newly elected Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan.

Today, nation claims to have achieved a leader they yearned for ages, one who can go along the aspiration of country, the one who can fill in the leadership void Pakistan suffered in successive 71 years. No doubt, leadership charisma of Mr. Khan has changed the directions of winds towards Pakistan.

Foreign countries’ overwhelming response on his victory and media coverage of his victory speech on all leading international news channels are some of budding effects.

However, the question arises how Mr. Khan will design foreign policy to extract maximum output, when his role remained controversial, previously shown some reservation over CPEC due to some aspects of corruption.

We cannot afford to criticize CPEC as this is the project which has changed the game for Pakistan.

For this, Imran Khan needs to devise pragmatic steps unlike his role while being in opposition during Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif.

He has been criticized for hindering the Chinese President Xi Jinpingvisit, who was to unveil 46billion$ international projects due his dharna sit-in. In addition to that absence of PM Nawaz Sharif in of Ufa summit (a land mark in diplomatic and economic life of Pakistan)due to uncertainty in political scenario of country created by PTI.

For this, Imran Khan has to be clear and devise strategies of foreign policy to neutralize relation with China as he does not enjoy that much warm relations as previous government.

Another immense challenge for PTI-led government will be setting relation with India. The efforts to transform rivalry ties of Indo-Pak into potential trade partners without compromising security and stability of region.

Though Mr. Khan has mentioned his will for dialogue with India, there has been no official statement of Pakistan after the release of UN report on human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir.

Imran Khan needs to take bold and flexible steps to ensure right of self-determination of Kashmiris. It would be a litmus test of his charismatic leadership, if succeeded, will have the crown of establishing peace in South Asia.

OBOR with central role of China and Russian engagement in Middle East and South Asia is ruffling American feathers.

A quick move from US-centric to China-centric without impacting national interests of Pakistan is crucial.

Pakistan needs to neutralize itself with both countries to fish out maximum like non-aligned state. The recent US role in opposing bailout of 12billion $ IMF package to Pakistan, as U.S believes bailout package will be utilized in servicing of Chinese debt, not acceptable to the Trump administration. Hence, shifting from “to do more” to “don’t do this instead”; hence, dropped all the veils of “diplomacy” which in its essence do not necessitate to maintain affable relations.

One of its principle is, when relations are spiky a slight shade of diplomacy is required to undergo all pervasive shortcomings in trust and mutual benefits transforming inconsistent relations into one with lofty understanding.

That’s what Mr. Khan needs to do.



Internally, Mr. Khan has to face scathing antagonistic opposition where they have to convince and take on-board all political parties on national and foreign policy initiatives. As foreign policy does not operate in vacuum rather it is mirroring of domestic policies.

The more harmony and good governance at home, the more effective foreign policy at international forums. His “dharna legacy” might lead others to follow.

Amid of all such changing political and economic state of affairs, challenges are great, both external and internal. This is the time to move foreign policy from realism to pragmatism as Pakistan’s foreign policy is encompassed by changes as well as opportunities.

The time really puts Pakistan’s foreign policy makers through paces, to craft policy while keeping in mind the regional realities.

Sincere efforts and devoted energies can really bring about the change that is being dreamed of in “Naya Pakistan”

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent ARY policies or opinion.