Pakistan’s foreign policy must be progressive and sensitive to rapidly changing global realities, without sacrificing on values, given the country’s location in a difficult neighbourhood and various external and internal challenges.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-recent Zardari’s remarks at an Islamabad think tank about the need to interact with India as well as solve Pakistan’s “isolation” in the international arena provide fuel for thought in this regard.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari believed that Pakistan’s retreat from India had backfired, and that the government should instead focus on economic diplomacy and interaction with its eastern neighbour. He claimed that disengagement — particularly after India unilaterally changed the special status of occupied Kashmir in 2019 — had neither assisted the Kashmir cause or addressed rising Islamophobia in India, and that closer connections could have aided Pakistan in addressing these critical concerns with that country.
Given the sensitivity of the situation, Pakistan’s Foreign Office later stated that its attitude toward India had not changed, and that while the government wished constructive dialogue, Delhi’s “unabated hostility… hampered the prospects of peace.”
The issue of India’s relations is undoubtedly problematic. Pakistan’s stance on India-controlled Kashmir, as well as its condemnation of anti-Muslim violence under the BJP’s leadership and current horrible insults directed at the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), is principled.
For long-term peace in South Asia, the Kashmir issue must be handled in accordance with the interests of the people of the disputed region, and anti-Muslim violence and prejudice at the state level in India must be eliminated immediately. However, engagement rather than sabre-rattling is a better alternative for resolving these and other irritants. That is why, instead of an arrogant response, if either country proposes conversation, the other should respond positively. Long-term, engagement is the only option to establish regional peace, with constant confrontation as the alternative.
Beyond the Pakistan-India relationship, this government — and all future governments — must follow a flexible foreign policy that does not jeopardise national interests. Foreign policy should be beyond petty politics and political party lines, with Pakistan’s interests at the top of the priority list.
Maintaining amicable connections with all neighbours, as well as trade and investment ties with countries further away, will pay off diplomatically.
It is critical to strengthen connections with old allies such as China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others, as well as to improve ties with the US, EU, Iran, Russia, and others.
Crafting a foreign policy that maintains a balance between all of these entities is, admittedly, a difficult challenge, given that several of these states are in direct conflict with one another.
However, the most practical alternative for Pakistan is to stay out of bloc politics and maintain neutrality in order to avoid becoming entangled in other people’s fights.The issue of India’s relations is undoubtedly problematic. Pakistan’s stance on India-controlled Kashmir, as well as its condemnation of anti-Muslim violence under the BJP’s leadership and current horrible insults directed at the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), is principled.
Yang Jiechi, a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party, will arrive in Islamabad today with a delegation for a...Read more