Hunter or Hunted?

Rather than walk­ing the lonely path, Pak­istan could in­crease its rel­e­vance in the re­gion if it were to adopt a more in­clu­sive ap­proach and fol­low a log­i­cal for­eign pol­icy.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Khawaja Amer The writer is a mem­ber of the staff and a veteran jour­nal­ist.

Af­ter the can­cel­la­tion of the SAARC sum­mit in Is­lam­abad and Pak­istan’s em­bar­rass­ment at the Heart of Asia con­fer­ence in Amritsar, po­lit­i­cal ob­servers and com­men­ta­tors on in­ter­na­tional af­fairs be­lieve that Pak­istan is fast head­ing to­wards com­plete iso­la­tion. They ar­gue that bar­ring China, most coun­tries in the re­gion con­sider Pak­istan a ter­ror­ist state while oth­ers per­ceive it as a ‘bad boy’ and, as such, they pre­fer to keep a safe dis­tance. Afghanistan has started toe­ing the line of In­dia, Iran be­lieves in main­tain­ing a com­plex if not hos­tile at­ti­tude to­wards Pak­istan, while the US-In­dia de­fence agree­ment has fur­ther con­sol­i­dated New Delhi in the re­gion, seem­ingly weak­en­ing the po­si­tion of Is­lam­abad. It sounds pretty strange that de­spite atroc­i­ties in Kash­mir, vi­o­la­tion of the Line of con­trol (LoC) and a gen­er­ally un­com­pro­mis­ing at­ti­tude, In­dia has been very suc­cess­ful in foil­ing Pak­istan’s ef­forts to con­vince the in­ter­na­tional community to lis­ten to its nar­ra­tives.

Re­fusal to lis­ten to Pak­istan’s side of story, in fact, can be termed as diplo­matic fail­ure and poor lob­by­ing by the coun­try. Some as­cribe this ‘fail­ure’ ex­clu­sively to the ab­sence of a full­time for­eign min­is­ter while oth­ers at­tribute it to the in­ept tilt to­wards China. But the fact re­mains that In­dia has some­how been suc­cess­ful in con­vey­ing the mes­sage to the world that Pak­istan is a ter­ror­ist state. This has also been af­firmed by many coun­tries like US, UK and var­i­ous think tanks in the world. In short, de­spite its stand against ter­ror­ism, Is­lam­abad has failed to


counter al­le­ga­tions against it with any good re­sults. Rea­sons may range from in­com­pe­tent diplomacy to its fail­ure to suc­cess­fully woo the world's me­dia.

The rea­son gets due cre­dence while re­fer­ring to the re­cent dis­cus­sion in the US Congress whether to cat­e­gorise Pak­istan as a "friend or foe." Ad­viser to the Pak­istan Prime Min­is­ter on For­eign Af­fairs, Sar­taj Aziz has also ad­mit­ted that while the con­cerns were caused by Afghan and In­dian pro­pa­ganda which led to anti-Pak­istan views by some Con­gress­men, it’s only a sec­tion of US in­tel­li­gentsia which thinks that Pak­istan should be treated as a foe by United States. The ad­viser main­tains that the US Congress is aware of Pak­istan's im­por­tance in the Is­lamic world and South Asia and in re­solv­ing the Afghan is­sue. But some con­gress­men who are "ei­ther not up­dated or have some con­cerns" have raised these fears which are base­less and ef­forts are be­ing made to ad­dress their con­cerns.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est def­i­ni­tion, in­ter­na­tional diplomacy is the con­duct of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions through the in­ter­ces­sion of pro­fes­sional diplo­mats with re­gard to is­sues of peace-mak­ing, trade, war, eco­nom­ics, cul­ture, en­vi­ron­ment, and hu­man rights. Since the be­gin­ning and ap­pli­ca­tion of mod­ern in­ter­na­tional sys­tems, states

de­fine and re­de­fine for­eign poli­cies keep­ing in view the chang­ing global scene, par­tic­u­larly in re­spec­tive re­gions. There­fore, there is no per­ma­nence ei­ther in friend­ship or ri­valry. But then a coun­try’s ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion and strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance does make a coun­try at­trac­tive or non-at­trac­tive. A coun­try de­spite its in­ter­nal in­sta­bil­ity and mea­gre re­sources can still be im­por­tant for many if it has a greater ap­peal for the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries by be­ing a strate­gic re­gional player. Pak­istan is def­i­nitely one of those im­por­tant coun­tries de­spite decades of long home-grown men­aces like cor­rup­tion, bad gov­er­nance, load shed­ding, and po­lit­i­cal dis­tur­bances. All it re­quires is ef­fec­tive lob­by­ing and sub­tle diplomacy.

A crit­i­cal study of Pak­istan’s re­cent diplo­matic moves re­veals that a num­ber of ini­tia­tives, though taken keep­ing in view the age-old cliché ‘'Love the neigh­bor as thy­self' turned out to be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. These in­clude the prime min­is­ter’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony of Naren­dra Modi --- a per­son who can cut his neigh­bour's throat with­out hav­ing the coun­try no­tice it. In­sur­gency in Balochis­tan is an­other in­stance. Add to the list mis­han­dling of the Afghan is­sue re­sult­ing in the mud­sling­ing from Ashraf Ghani at Heart of Asia con­fer­ence, a pre­dictable re­sponse from the In­dian gov­ern­ment in the form of an an­gry de­nial that the Ufa agree­ment had been about broader is­sues and a re­jec­tion of the Pak­istani at­tempt to in­clude Kash­mir in the agenda. Al­most all of these mis­takes have been the out­come of short­sighted and of­ten im­ma­ture po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment in the for­eign pol­icy process. These ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic steps could have been avoided through in­tel­li­gent and sub­tle diplo­matic moves.

Is there some­thing wrong with Pak­istan's for­eign pol­icy? There is a gen­eral be­lief that the pol­icy is a col­lec­tive draft of the ma­jor su­per pow­ers of the world, and if it is true, then the coun­try does not need a full time for­eign min­is­ter at all for the avail­able for­eign of­fice staff is enough to im­ple­ment the poli­cies ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tives and line of ac­tion re­ceived from the ‘bosses.’ Though, the va­cant seat of the for­eign min­is­ter gives cre­dence to this no­tion, the fact re­mains that there is no prop­erly and ex­plic­itly de­fined for­eign pol­icy pur­sued by Pak­istan.

The un­cer­tainty and in­her­ent in­con­sis­tency in prepa­ra­tion of a far­sighted, long-last­ing and in­de­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy has re­sulted in Pak­istan’s shaky stand in South Asia. Hu­sain Haqqani, a noted Pak­istani au­thor and for­mer am­bas­sador to the USA, says: “We have al­ways had this myth­i­cal no­tion that a su­per­power ally will come from out­side, solve all our prob­lems, im­prove our econ­omy and build our mil­i­tary so we can stand up to In­dia. First we looked to the U.S., but they did not do what we ex­pected them to do. Then we turned to China and we have con­sis­tently be­lieved China will solve all our prob­lems.” He goes on: “China has of­ten promised large amounts of in­vest­ment in coun­tries but rarely has all that in­vest­ment ac­tu­ally flowed through. For ex­am­ple, de­spite an­nounc­ing plans for more than $24 bil­lion in in­vest­ment in In­done­sia since 2005, a decade later China has in­vested only $1.8 bil­lion there.”

With these for­eign-pol­icy re­lated nar­ra­tives it can be safely summed up that the Pak­istan for­eign pol­icy ini­tia­tives lack trans­parency, con­sen­sus and a co­her­ent sense of pur­pose. How­ever, the for­eign of­fice has de­nied all al­le­ga­tions lev­elled by the op­po­si­tion that a for­eign pol­icy, if it ex­ists, is re­ac­tionary, and lacks the re­quired R&D to iden­tify and ar­rest op­por­tu­ni­ties, some of which may not have emerged in the main­stream as yet. With a nearly dys­func­tional R&D wing, Pak­istan’s for­eign pol­icy has failed on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions. Thus this wing of the for­eign of­fice must be set in mo­tion im­me­di­ately with di­rec­tives to iden­tify the loop­holes and build an in­de­pen­dent pol­icy pro­tect­ing the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional fron­tiers and safe­guard­ing its so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­ter­ests. De­pen­dence on a con­spir­acy the­ory must be avoided to pro­mote a con­sis­tent sense of pur­pose. Pak­istan must build a pol­icy of con­sen­sus that is clear, well-com­mu­ni­cated and is not con­fused by the stake­hold­ers in­volved with pol­icy for­mu­la­tion, es­pousal or ad­vo­cacy pro­cesses.

Sur­rounded by not-so-friendly neigh­bours, the only con­so­la­tion for Pak­istan is the time-tested Pak­istanChina Friend­ship. The sup­port which China and Pak­istan give to each other is con­sid­ered sig­nif­i­cant in global diplomacy and has been com­pared to Is­rael-United States re­la­tions. Ac­cord­ing to a Pew sur­vey of Pak­istan pub­lic opinion, 84 per­cent re­spon­dents said they had a favourable view of China and 16 per­cent had a favourable view of the United States. These re­sults showed that Pak­istan is the most proChina coun­try in the world. Sim­i­larly, the Chi­nese state-run me­dia has por­trayed Pak­istan in a favourable light in re­gional is­sues.

Con­sider the com­ments of C. Raja Mo­han, Carnegie In­dia di­rec­tor at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace on Sino-Pak re­la­tion­ship. He says, “As Is­lam­abad be­comes a vis­i­ble neg­a­tive fac­tor in In­dia-China re­la­tions, it's hoped that po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences won't over­shadow eco­nomic en­gage­ment be­tween the two heavy­weights. China and In­dia are strong enough to know that they have no choice to man­age their strate­gic dif­fer­ences as the cost of con­flict would be too great to bear. With Modi in power, In­dia was now as­sert­ing its po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic clout on the global stage, so Beijing has learnt to en­gage with a more pow­er­ful In­dia than it pre­vi­ously en­coun­tered. Clearly, both Xi and Modi are com­mit­ted na­tion­al­ists but their re­la­tion­ship will os­cil­late be­tween co­op­er­a­tive eco­nomic el­e­ments and com­pet­i­tive strate­gic el­e­ments for the fore­see­able fu­ture."

Ex­perts on in­ter­na­tional af­fairs say that un­less Pak­istan un­der­stands the mean­ing of bal­ance of power in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, coun­tries hos­tile and not friendly to Pak­istan will keep on blam­ing it even for deeds not com­mit­ted by it. A bal­ance of power is a state of sta­bil­ity be­tween com­pet­ing forces. In in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, it refers to equi­lib­rium among coun­tries or al­liances to prevent any one en­tity from be­com­ing too strong and, thus, gain­ing the abil­ity to en­force its will upon the rest.

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