For­eign pol­icy in a sham­bles

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ali Ashraf Khan

SINCE the new govern­ment of Nawaz Sharif and his party has come into power in 2013 for­eign pol­icy of Pak­istan has been suf­fer­ing from the Prime Min­is­ter’s mag­no­ma­nia un­der which he did not ap­point a full-fledged For­eign Min­is­ter but only one ad­viser and an­other special as­sis­tant on for­eign af­fairs while keeping the de­ci­sion mak­ing in that vi­tal re­sort of pol­icy mak­ing to him­self. This does not mean that the per­for­mance of the ad­vis­ers would be crit­i­cized; both are said to be ex­pe­ri­enced for­eign pol­icy ex­perts and have done what was pos­si­ble un­der the cir­cum­stances.

But the cir­cum­stances were un­favourable to say the least; they were work­ing ei­ther with­out full power depend­ing on the or­ders given by the Prime Min­is­ter in a fief­dom, or ac­cord­ing to their ca­pac­ity. For­eign pol­icy plan­ning is a spe­cialised area of ad­min­is­tra­tion and the of­fi­cer cadre is trained with years of re­search work and in-ser­vice train­ing. And that over the pe­riod of three years ad­hoc­racy since 2013 has done con­sid­er­able and vis­i­ble dam­age to our for­eign pol­icy. In the mod­ern world for­eign pol­icy is not and can­not be any more the personal ini­tia­tive of a ruler.

While personal likes and dis­likes as well as the personal charms of the ac­tors of for­eign pol­icy might be help­ful to­day the base­line of it is de­vel­oped in a sci­en­tific way by for­eign pol­icy mak­ing bod­ies keeping in mind na­tional in­ter­est and in­ter­link­ing it with eco­nomic, so­cial and se­cu­rity re­lated goals of a coun­try. This has not been the case in Pak­istan for many rea­sons and the re­sult was and is, among oth­ers, Pak­istan’s un­favourable im­age abroad and our lag­ging be­hind in mak­ing our points rec­og­nized in­ter­na­tion­ally. The first blow came when a fa­mous for­eign min­is­ter first played his game on Tashkent dec­la­ra­tion and later when he as­sumed power af­ter de­ba­cle of East Pak­istan, he not only re­cruited his party jialas into civil ser­vices of Pak­istan - the for­eign ser­vice was also not spared. Hun­dreds of party jiyalas and jiyalis were thrust in dif­fer­ent higher scales of ser­vices that was the ma­jor blow to our na­tional in­ter­est and for­eign pol­icy.

Fur­ther ex­am­ples are the un­suc­cess­ful Kash­mir pol­icy, the un­solved re­la­tion­ship with Afghanistan and other neigh­bours and our re­peated de­pen­dence on the US de­spite the lessons that we should have learnt from their let­ting us down again and again. An­other very cur­rent point is the un­re­al­is­tic at­ti­tude to­wards China as an ‘all-weather friend’ that im­plies that China –as a friend- would put our na­tional in­ter­est over and above their own in cases when the two are clash­ing. The list could be ex­tended but let us rather look at the rea­sons for this de­ba­cle. From day one of our ex­is­tence Pak­istani rulers have un­der­stood the ex­is­tence of Pak­istan as their do­main from where keep in power, to rule and to make money. Given their feu­dal and tribal and pseudo-re­li­gious char­ac­ter they were and are think­ing in terms of per­son­al­ized power with no real re­gard for or even un­der­stand­ing about ‘the na­tion’ com­pris­ing of not only the rulers but of all peo­ple in­clud­ing the poor and un­der­de­vel­oped. Run­ning the state as a personal feu­dal es­tate in the cloak of ‘democ­racy’ has nat­u­rally left much political space un­oc­cu­pied that has been taken by the Pak­istan mil­i­tary. Feel­ing re­spon­si­ble for not only the ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity of the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of Pak­istan but also for our in­ter­nal se­cu­rity much of for­eign pol­icy mak­ing has been mo­nop­o­lized by the mil­i­tary.

But pol­icy mat­ters are not to be com­manded like a mil­i­tary di­vi­sion; it has to be a process of anal­y­sis and ne­go­ti­a­tion for which an army by def­i­ni­tion is ill-equipped. So we have quite some for­eign pol­icy dis­as­ters (mis)man­aged by our mil­i­tary in­clud­ing the mis­guided oper­a­tion Gi­bral­tar that led to the 1965 war, in­clud­ing the botched pol­icy to­wards East Pak­istan that led to the break-up of Pak­istan and why and how Zi­aul Haq was elim­i­nated. Af­ter the US aban­doned Afghanistan Zi­aul Haq per­haps was plan­ning to get Kash­mir lib­er­ated through “Oper­a­tion Topac” which was not liked by the prover­bial mon­key, later the dis­as­trous Kargil war was ini­ti­ated where even the bod­ies of our sol­diers were not claimed just to keep up an im­age that was al­ready in­cred­i­ble at that time as well as the ill-con­ceived mil­i­tary strate­gies of ‘the de­fense of the East lies in the West’ and more re­cently the ‘strate­gic depth’ strat­egy that helped cre­at­ing and de­vel­op­ing the Tal­iban. Wasn’t all this was done to please US? Th­ese ex­am­ples should suf­fice to drive the point home that Pak­istan needs an in­te­grated, based on sci­en­tific lines for­eign pol­icy. In­te­grated be­cause for­eign pol­icy touches on all as­pects of pol­icy mak­ing: eco­nomic, so­cial, ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal se­cu­rity re­lated; sci­en­tific be­cause there are guide­lines ap­plied in in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics for evolv­ing for­eign pol­icy. Pak­istani uni­ver­si­ties do have de­part­ments and spe­cial­ists on in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and political sci­ence and while there is surely room for im­prove­ment among them they need to be heard and lis­tened to.

There is also a need to first es­tab­lish be­yond doubt what our na­tional in­ter­est is be­cause that is what should guide pol­i­cy­mak­ing. And this dis­cus­sion can­not be held be­hind closed doors or in sci­en­tific con­fer­ence rooms but it needs to be brought to the pub­lic. What is our na­tional in­ter­est and how it dif­fers from our personal one (a mat­ter that the rulers of the PPP and PML-N gov­ern­ments never man­aged to un­der­stand) is a vi­tal act of eman­ci­pa­tion if we want not only to en­sure the sur­vival of our coun­try but its pros­per­ity and in­ter­na­tional respect. So it goes with­out any say­ing that what you sow, shall you reap. GOD Bless Pak­istan and Hu­man­ity. —The writer is a se­nior colum­nist based in Karachi.

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