POLICY puzzles are solved solely in the national interest. So be it! As a first step to regain lost dignity we need to follow a foreign policy that promotes a sustained, determined friendship with China and Iran. The sheer naïveté of this suggestion will be met with howls of derision. How can we expect the ruling forces to alienate the bastion of their assets, they that nurture their children? Or for that matter expect the Iranians, the forlorn promise of the late RCD notwithstanding, to overcome their historic disdain for us in particular?
Liaquat Ali Khan's decision to visit the US in 1950 seemingly snubbing Josef Stalin's earlier invitation set the direction for close ties with the West even whilst giving a veneer of non-alignment. Suffice it to say that the US imperative to contain communist expansion and our overriding apprehension of Indian aggression has determined our foreign policy throughout the post independence years. After 68 years what have we learned?
Conclusively, that each country acts in its own self interest and the bigger they are the more muscle is exerted to bend others to their will.
The law of the jungle dressed up in fine intentions. They then "threaten to bomb you back to the stone-age" (Armitage) or "you are with us or against us" (Bush) or "we will make a horrible example of you" (Kissinger).
There is found no evidence of Chairman Mao or Ayatollah Khomeini ever making such threats against us. Nor has any finger been pointed at any Chinese or Iranian state authority linking them to the assassinations of Liaquat Ali Khan, Zia or Benazir Bhutto.
Our past choices have been honed on a rapacious appetite that relied on regular bailouts from international aid and loans. That it suited the West to keep us afloat even as we persistently violated codicils of IMF treaties, is never really understood. This national ethos of dependency has devolved on our own business community - rely on the state to bail you out as and when required.
With our national debt at a historic high ($50 billion), declining exports and our tax-GDP amongst the lowest in the world how long is the collective amnesia of our dilapidated state going to continue? Economic deliverance an illusion, international respect a pipe dream.
Meanwhile countries that steadfastly held an independent course may be eating grass but Iranians, Cubans, Venezuelans and the Chinese interalia walk tall and look forward to a genuine friends-not-masters relationship with the rest of the world.
Deserving or not, we are pariahs in most of the world and specifically so in the countries we cling to the closest. And where is India? India whose inconsistencies and duplicities abound, turns up at the top table as a much exalted guest; its power applauded, its culture venerated, its people accepted. As far back as 1985, the Festival of India was launched with balloons and parades and doves released by president Reagan and Rajiv Gandhi.
This was the first time the US had earmarked a period of 18 months (not the usual calendar year) as tribute to a foreign culture. Bloomingdales ran a perpetual India wing. If Pakistan has ever had such a tribute it was probably at a 7 Eleven.
A manifest desire for the closest friendship with both China and Iran does not require abandoning of current relations. This is not a zero sum game and in any case whatever our historic use, be it nuclear muscle, geo-strategic location or the modest flow of goods and services, it remains constant. The world is lining up to take steps for greater commercial ties with both China and Iran none more so than India; yet there is a window if we seize this moment whilst the US conservatives hostility persists -a friend in need.
FPCCI has proposed a target of $5bn on trade from the current $400 million, hardly ambitious compared to the $15bn achieved by India even whilst sanctions were in place.
Our policy should be a consistent and clear state-sponsored promotion of a vigorous relationship. Economic diplomacy initiatives that include MFN status, skewed tax preferential treatment, elimination of regressive bureaucracy.
Take the nation on board on CPEC, clarify the current obscurity and give it top priority in a national economic plan. Revisit the IPI pipeline project now that banking restrictions are removed. Bundle this with use of our soft power. India has adopted an India China Tourism Year which we should have done.
The Indian arts and entertainment industry has a phenomenal global following and has done much to make India shining. Our own nascent industry will be equally effective in the promotion of Pakistan.
Lifting of sanctions is a start and a full menu of initiatives should be launched for this endeavour overcoming all reservations of the recalcitrant mandarins who would seek to obstruct.