Has Pakistan shifted its foreign policy from geo-politics to geo-economics?

Zahid Hussain Khaskheli
Has Pakistan shifted its foreign policy from geo-politics to geo-economics?

There is an ongoing debate that Pakistan, forced by its weak economy, has changed its foreign policy from geo-politics to geo-economics. Pakistan’s move to facilitate the US-Taliban talks, its concentration on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and undertaking structural economic reforms, are highlighted as examples. However, if contemplated deeply, these moves appear to be an extension of geo-political approach, Pakistan has applied throughout its history. In short, it has not yet shifted its policy and continuing its geo-political approach.

Pakistan’s efforts to bring Talban and the US on table do not represent the doctrinal shift in its policy from geo-politics to geo-economics. There are several reasons to support this fact. Firstly, Pakistan was compelled by its bad image in the comity of nations to facilitate such process. Secondly, policy makers wanted to revive its good relations with the USA, which was impossible without bringing Talban to the negotiation table. Thirdly, Pakistan’s economy was going in deep abyss, with the anticipated blacklisting by FATF. The efforts to put Pakistan on blacklist were underway. Only the US would have been able to get it out of such mess. Some experts even argue that it was a deliberate move by the US to force Pakistan to pressurize Taliban for the dialogue. Lastly, the notion that peace in Afghanistan, facilitated by Pakistan, is to succeed CPEC is also wrong and it is evident in the slow pace with which the CPEC is moving. If the reason were CPEC, there would have been some acceleration on the progress of its projects.

Besides, to give a practical shape to its shifting of policy towards geo-economic, Pakistan should have approached its south Asian neighbours for economic alliances. However, the facts prove that it has not approached them for commercial activities. In fact, Pakistan has alienated China, which is evident from the slow progress on the CPEC projects. Moreover, It has never tried to revive SAARC, a regional cooperation organization in South Asia. These facts point out that policy makers are not contemplating any doctrinal shift as supported by some optimist thinkers.

With soaring trade deficit, limited foreign reserves and low tax-to- GDP ratio, Pakistan has to depend on its western clients for financial help.

This approach should be changed as it has done incalculable damage to the Pakistan. Firstly, the approach of using Pakistan’s territory for geo-political purpose has earned Pakistan nothing except bad image in the world. Secondly, this approach has barred Pakistan from undertaking structural reforms in its economy. It has kept on depending on international financial institutions and western largesse. With soaring trade deficit, limited foreign reserves and low tax-to- GDP ratio, Pakistan has to depend on its western clients for financial help. Consequently, it has failed to develop economic base, which is vital not only for the peoples of Pakistan, but also for its international image. There is an urgent need to change this approach. Pakistan should, no more, act as a client state by risking the better lifestyle of its citizens.

The writing on the wall is very clear and loud. A time has arrived where the international community is not even hearing Pakistan’s legitimate concerns. Some rights groups and media outlets listened to Pakistan’s hue and cry over the human rights violations in Indian held Kashmir (IHK), but purely on the humanitarian basis. Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts failed to wake its western clients from their deep slumber. Why they would annoy India? It is a big market of around 1.3 billion people and an effective counterweight to China in the region. It is crystal clear that economy not politics is the driving force in the international relations. Adding insults to the injury, even OIC is reluctant to support Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir as it was evident from the fact that Saudi-led block in the organization halted Pakistan’s efforts to use it as a forum for Kashmir’s cause. Riyadh is bound by its economic dependency on India because New Delhi is its largest oil market. It is only the economic prosperity, which will add weight to Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts. It will earn Pakistan respect in the globe. It will make Pakistani people happy and prosper. Thus, Pakistan needs to change its approach from geo-political to geo-economic. Its policymakers and leaders should act now.



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