States risk being dragged into the whirlpool of divisive bloc politics and conflict unless they keep up with the changes in the global order and adjust their foreign policies accordingly. Even though its options have been constrained by economic upheaval and poor management, as well as internal political discord, Pakistan, which is located in a challenging neighbourhood and must handle a number of delicate bilateral ties, must carefully consider all of its alternatives.
At a gathering on Friday in Islamabad, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the nation’s connections with “friendly” nations have deteriorated recently and that he was “making all-out efforts” to restore them. There can be little disagreement regarding the necessity of strengthening ties with foreign partners, even though the PM’s statement clearly had a political motivation in criticising his predecessor. With his recent return from Saudi Arabia and upcoming trip to China, Mr. Sharif appears to have been reinvigorating proactive foreign policy. Of course, the focus here is heavily influenced by Pakistan’s severe financial position.
However, establishing a progressive and strong foreign policy would call for more than merely obtaining loans and memorandums of understanding from our allies abroad.
To escape the landmines in front of us and to clean up our own act so that Pakistan’s reputation abroad might improve, we must go cautiously.
Pakistan must maintain harmony in its relationships with a wide range of international allies, many of whom want this nation to join with them when times are bad and who frequently do not agree with one another. In the next days, that will be Pakistan’s main foreign policy challenge. For instance, Pakistan has had a long-standing partnership with the US, but one that has been more transactional than strategic.
China and Saudi Arabia have also been reliable allies, but the US currently views the People’s Republic of China as its top enemy abroad, and relations between Washington and Riyadh have also begun to deteriorate. Will Pakistan be asked to choose a side in such a case?
The difficulties that lay ahead don’t stop with this. Priority must be given to Pakistan’s interests, including its defence, economy, and strategy, while the elected government must develop a wise and balanced foreign policy that can survive the powerful headwinds currently rattling the world order and be carried out by experienced diplomats.
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