Is Pakistan able to adopt independent foreign policy?

(Anser Daoud, Lahore)

Pakistan cannot follow an independent foreign policy unless some changes are made by the political elite in the country. Unless the strategies are not made that helps to fulfill the national interest, friendly ties with other countries, it will remain an obstacle. The confrontation among the institutions and ideologies of Islamists and West does not helps. The ruling elite ignoring the investment on basic human development, agriculture and the stability of economy eventually makes Pakistan vulnerable to downfall in the region.

Currently, pursuing an independent foreign policy for Pakistan is not possible. As for a long time Pakistan’s foreign policy has been inclined towards the US but the recent developments in Pak-China relations has given Pakistan an opportunity to shift its dependency on China and Russia.

Since Donald Trump held the office of US, the continuous harsh and bitter attitude of United States towards Pakistan and not acknowledging the sacrifices made by Pakistan in War against Terrorism have made Pakistan to think about shifting its foreign policy. Khawaja Asif, the foreign minister of Pakistan hinted,

"China lives next to us and we have a common wall. Russia can also be our good friend."

Economy is one of the main traits of independent foreign policy. The foreign minister Khawaja Asif said

"We can’t have an independent foreign policy until we are economically strong,"

The foreign debts of Pakistan set a record in terms of debt last year. The foreign debts of Pakistan stood at $72.98 billion (Rs. 7.40 trillion) after the first half of 2016. In terms of currency, the Dollar the touched 111 PKR for the first time in four years. CPEC has been considered as a hope that will boost the economy and allow Pakistan to get itself out of economic collapse. As long as the country is dependent economically and strategically, it won’t allow to pursue an independent foreign policy.

The Pakistani administration has been criticized for long for appointing a foreign minister after 4 years of delay. This negligence by the PML-N government towards the foreign policy had reflected that Pakistan has been very weak internationally to convey its message to the world.

In this region, China has been all along by the side of Pakistan. It is important for Islamabad to make policies based on national interest and friendly relations with the countries sharing border. Islamabad has stated at various occasions that it believes in friendly relations based on the level of equality. The country has to give space to friends not to the masters. As Pakistan is a sovereign independent state, the territorial integrity should not be challenged but Pakistan has faced serious tensions at the both Afghan and the Line of Control where violation of ceasefire has become normal. Pakistan has taken its case to United Nations several times regarding the ceasefire violations made by India at LOC but being a country that possess a weak image globally, the importance level moves away from Pakistan that does not allow Pakistan to covey a solid message.

Domestically, the country’s ruling elite has to focus on the human development, changing the living standards of common citizens eventually make ways for better economy. Human development has mostly been sidelined by the ruling elite instead, focuses more towards the development projects and transportation i.e Motorways, Flyovers, Orange Line Train etc mainly in Punjab. The transparent investment in agricultural sector and financial support to the farmers could be vital for the economy. The priorities of investment of the ruling elite has been unfair which did resulted in backlash by the political opposition in the country. In a developing country like Pakistan, the betterment of the educational, health, agricultural sector must be done to make sure it prevails for the better image of Pakistan globally.

The Islamic image of Pakistan globally has barred Pakistan to portray it’s rationality to the world. The domestic pressure does not allow to make decisions independently. The fact that the Islamists has been against the ties with United States and India stating them as the enemy of Islam. But this ideology has to be put aside if developing friendly ties with them is in national interest of Pakistan at first place. A hostile policy has to be adopted in order to go beyond the hurdles and make decision that serves the national interest first.

The clash among the institutions in the country has made it difficult for Islamabad to construct a foreign policy based on civil and military elite consensus. The civilian and military elite has been remain undivided on various issues in the country as the military believes that the civilian elite is incompatible to manage the strategic affairs due to which the military exploitation comes into play and results in confrontation.

The state has to exercise its authority in order to ensure that without any domestic pressure it can sort out the matters inside the country and to fulfill the requirements of an independent foreign policy, concrete measures has to be taken that will allow Pakistan to pursue an independent foreign policy.


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