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.
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.