During the last decade, South Asian geopolitical dynamics have transformed rapidly. The ill-labelling of Pakistan as a rogue state coupled with unjust sanctions and multiple layers of pressures on the country to comply with over-stretched demand from the West dented Islamabad’s international relations. Based on false reports and funded propaganda, Pakistan took a huge hit due to which its diplomatic relations became strained. However, the contemporary government of Pakistan has revamped its policies and strategies to the existing crisis and evolving situations. The renewed National Security Policy, focused primarily on geo-economics, is aimed at establishing and maintaining friendly relations with countries around the world. Not only has Pakistan been able to revamp its economy but has also implemented strict policy initiatives to strengthen its geopolitical interaction and steer itself out of the deadlocks and various crisis.
Pakistan-China Economic Policies
Islamabad and Beijing have always shared cordial relations which have further strengthened over the last few years. Recently, the two countries issued a joint statement calling for furthering bilateral economic ties which was followed by a meeting between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing during the Winter Olympic Games. In addition, Pakistan and China pledged bilateral cooperation in security, education and technology, etc. Economic ties between the two countries strengthened in 2013 with the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is designed to upgrade Pakistan’s infrastructure and improve its economy. Similarly, the two countries have decided to cooperate in improving Pakistan’s civil nuclear power sector. Maintaining close ties with China has grown to become a central part of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
In our seven-decade history as a nation, we have experienced different paths in our foreign policy; Pakistan has always been an ally of the US. Pakistan joined the US camp during the Cold War in the 1970s, remained a U.S. front-line ally during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror (GWOT). During the Afghan war, Pakistan faced a lot of damage by supporting the United States. The US-led war in Afghanistan brought several terrorist organisations to Pakistan which not only spread terrorism in the country but also changed the overall political, societal and security dynamics of the country. The Afghan War and afterwards the GWOT intended huge financial and human losses on the country.
Fast forward to current situation, Pakistan has made it clear that it would not indulge in any misadventures of any country and would not allow the usage of its territory for such cross-border activities. The renewed approach comes at a critical time when the American-led coalition forces withdrew from Afghanistan, Russian invasion of Ukraine and changing geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. A pertinent example is of Islamabad’s neutral policy towards the Ukraine crisis despite great pressure from the West, especially the US.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, recently visited Russia at the invitation of President Putin. This visit of the Pakistani Prime Minister was 23 years later. Furthermore, this visit to Russia surprised the whole world because of the critical time-frame of the visit when Russia had just started its advancements. Pakistan gave a clear message to the world that it would not compromise its bilateral relations. After this visit, Imran Khan announced that Pakistan would import 2 million tons of wheat from Russia and buy natural gas under bilateral agreements. In addition, Russia announced a 40 per cent discount on oil imports for seven countries, including Pakistan. Even President Putin praised Prime Minister Imran Khan for his visit to Russia during a tense situation and announced that he would visit Pakistan soon. Moreover, Pakistan also sent multiple airplanes containing food supplies, medical products and other humanitarian aid to Ukraine for helping those distress.
The major reason behind the tense situation between India and Pakistan is the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan and India have engaged in numerous wars and clashes over Kashmir. In violation of international law, India’s abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A shows that India has taken harsh steps detrimental to regional peace and stability. The stubbornness of successive Indian governments in resolving the dispute is becoming a matter of concern for policymakers worldwide. This issue must be resolved through the Pacific Dispute Resolution, as set out in Article 33 of the UN Charter. The International Religious Freedom Report clearly states that India’s use of threatening tactics against its minorities is tantamount to state terrorism. Pakistan came on the front foot to support the Kashmiri people and highlighted this issue at all forums, including the United Nations.
In the case of Kashmir, Pakistan is now playing the role of ambassador to show the real face of India to the world and how India is oppressing the Kashmiri people. Similarly, on February 26 February 26 2019, the Indian air force crossed the Line of Control (LOC), claiming that they entered Pakistan and eliminated terrorists. But Pakistan military denied all the allegations because, at the location provided by the Indian military, there were no terrorists. On February 27, Pakistan shot down Indian aircraft and arrested an Indian air force pilot but returned him as a gesture of peace. Further, Pakistan maintained a position to abstain from war and pursue table talk.
Iran- Saudi Arabia conflict
During the tensions between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia requested military assistance from Pakistan, but Pakistan refused. Pakistan offered to play the mediator on which Pakistan is currently trying to resolve this issue. Similarly, in the case of the Iran-Saudi dispute, Pakistan is playing the role of mediator.
Pakistan has been able to overcome many hurdles in re-orienting its relations and ties with many countries. In the last few years, the traction maintained by the country has led to the opening of various horizons and avenues which have proved to be lucrative for the country. By engaging with the international community, Pakistan has not only bolstered its trade and uplifted its economy but has also emerged as a key regional player for diffusing tensions, bridging the gap and promoting peace between/among various countries. The current policy overhaul has allowed Pakistan to negate its wrongly painted position and show how it has been a victim to hybrid warfare and state-sponsored terrorism which has been communicated otherwise.