Presently, Pakistan is playing its foreign policy cards meticulously. It is not only keeping a neutral stance when dealing with the global powers, but also maintaining healthy relations with the rival ideological states like Saudi Arabia and Iran. Besides, the foreign policy architects of Pakistan are ensuring that nothing overshoots the mark. Even when dealing with the rival India, Islamabad is now offering a dialogue, which is indeed a positive step and this change in policy must be appreciated.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan was keen to develop good friendly relations with India as he said in his inaugural speech, “If you (India) take one step forward, we will take two steps forward.” Unfortunately, the relations between the two nuclear-armed states worsened when India revoked Article 370 and 35A on August 5th, 2019. This move was unacceptable for Pakistan as it claimed that the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir were deprived of their basic rights. Since then, the ties between both states remained frozen.
Since the creation of Pakistan, all measures to improve friendly ties with India failed because the military leadership and democratic government were not on the same page. Actually, there was no defined foreign policy of Pakistan towards India. Very recently, it seems that Pakistan has made its mindset to extend a hand of friendship towards New Delhi as indicated by the remarks of Imran Khan as well as Chief of army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa. “We feel that it is time to bury the past and move forward,” the army chief said on the second day of the Islamabad Security Dialogue. Nonetheless, it is delightful to see that there is a sudden change in Pakistan’s tone, and improvement in its foreign policy. It bodes well for not only Pakistan but also the entire region.
Although, Pakistan has followed the policy of neutrality towards Saudi Arabia and Iran, yet maintaining this neutrality stance becomes a herculean task for her keeping in view Saudi Arabia’s financial assistance to Pakistan during the toughest hours and hosting of more than 2.5 million Pakistani workers. It implies that Pakistan is dependent on Saudi Arabia when it comes to overseas employment and a source of remittance. On the other hand, there is Iran, which is a southwestern neighbor of Pakistan and home to 98 per cent Shia population. About 15 per cent Shia population of Pakistan consider it as their spiritual Centre. A harsh approach towards Iran would turn the Shia against the government and create security challenges. In such a perplexing situation, Pakistan has successfully maintained its neutrality stance towards the both rivals and refused to participate in Saudi led military expedition in Yemen. The continuation of neutrality stance of Pakistan in the toughest situation should be appreciated.
The two-decades-long war in Afghanistan is about to come to an end on September 11th, 2021 as the U.S. President Joe Biden has announced the complete withdrawal of his forces from the country. Pakistan has been one of the most active players in the peace process. However, Pakistan followed the policy of of imposed settlement in Afghanistan with Pashtun Taliban to be the dominant power while arranging the peace talks between Taliban and The US. Washington disliked the policy as it was in favor of sharing the power with all the ethnic groups. It was because of this rigid stand of Islamabad, the peace process delayed. In a very recently concluded Doha Peace Agreement and softness in the rhetoric of the Taliban, it seems that Pakistan has shifted its foreign policy from imposed to the political settlement. The Taliban has not only agreed to accept the withdrawal of the US in installment, but also decided to negotiate with the existing Afghan’s government and other ethnic groups for power sharing. Pakistan enjoys good influence over the Taliban and they always act in accordance with the interest of Islamabad during the talks. It also reflects the improvement of Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan.
Pakistan has, now, been following a policy of maintaining good relations with the distant Muslim countries. This objective remained absent from its foreign policy priorities before. It is developing a strong bond with Turkey. Ankara is now one of the favorite tourist destinations for Pakistanis. The Pakistani leadership has extended the relations by using digital platforms too. The Urdu dubbing of the drama serial ‘Diriliş: Ertuğrul’ has attracted Pakistani nation more towards Turkish history, traditions, and culture. Besides, the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir, to Pakistan on the request of Imran Khan and arranging of Kuala Lumpur Summit again speak volume of Pakistan titration towards distant Muslim countries.
Although, China has become closer to Pakistan more than ever, yet Pakistan has not given up its relations with the US. The balancing the relations with the US and China is a feat worth appreciating. The US is the top export destination for Pakistan. Therefore, the later cannot afford to adopt harsh rhetoric towards the global power. On the other hand, China is an all-weather friend, which is investing $62 Billion in Pakistan under the umbrella of its Belt and Road Initiative’s Flagship Project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Unfortunately, China and the U.S. have been on the brink of a new cold war whereby they have imposed tariffs on each other’s exports and have threatened to cut diplomatic ties with each other. In such a heated atmosphere, Pakistan has remained neutral, as it has not chosen sides, which is a move worth applause.
To conclude, Pakistan has learnt from past foreign policy mistakes and keeping improving it. If Islamabad keeps improving its mistakes, one day it will become a powerful state in the world.