The challenges of twenty first century in a strategically important country like Pakistan are indeed daunting. Pakistan’s geo strategic location opens door for both opportunities and tests given the politically embroiled and war torn neighbourhood. The main challenges like energy crisis, extremism, terrorism, economic decline have impeded the effectiveness of foreign policy. However,during the past three years, Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has remained steadfast in its engagement and cooperation with the international community to fulfil its aspirations for development, peace and security. An overview of three years performance will not only give a deep insight into the present doctrines and their impact but also suggest future possible actions.
Pakistan is desirous of peaceful resolution of all disputes under the UN charter and international law. Through prudent economic diplomacy, It has been able to successfully engage with the world in trade and commerce, seeking market access for its goods and developing healthy economic partnerships. Securing GSP Plus status for duty free access of Pakistani exports to EU countries in December 2013 is a success story of this approach. Pakistan highly values its relations with European Union as a major trading partner. Presently, the government is working on strengthening cultural and educational linkages through the presence of a large Pakistani Diaspora in Europe.
A new narrative wedded to the cause of promoting peace in the region and creating economic linkage for a shared prosperity has been evolved. Pakistan has been making strenuous efforts in promoting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation in Afghanistan and fostering cooperation between the two countries in fighting terrorism. The recent border management agreement with Afghanistan is also the achievement of present leadership. Pakistan believes that a new coordination mechanism between Pakistan and Afghanistan, comprising their foreign ministers and national security advisers agreed upon during talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani in Tashkent on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meetingand despite some hic-ups along the way there is a renewed hope of getting things back on track.
The exponential enhancement of economic relations with China under the umbrella of China-Pak Economic Corridor is another testimonial of the success of the new vision. Pakistan has become full member of the SCO, ground breaking ceremony of TAPI and CASA 100 has finally been performed, and relations with Russia have been put on a higher level. The foregoing are verifiable developments and the country undoubtedly is far better off than in May 2013. There is a discernible change in all spheres of the national life. The ambience of gloom has been transformed into vibrant optimism. These are all very auspicious developments and would go a long way in boosting the already buoyant economy.
Pakistan’s intensive diplomatic lobbying, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif personally writing to 17 prime ministers, prevented India from gaining entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which is on record. The NSG failed to reach consensus on India’s membership application after several members of the international nuclear trade cartel insisted on adhering to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) condition for admission.
India and Pakistan are the two non-NPT states aspiring for the membership of the 48-member international nuclear trade cartel. Pakistan stance in this regard is that if India being a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) member is given waiver in this regard then Pakistan is also entitled for the same waiver as both the countries fall in the same criteria. The absence of a consensus on the matter proved to be a major diplomatic setback for India and its backers especially the US, Japan and some other Western countries, which appeared to be in a hurry to get India admitted to the group.
In the changing new dynamics of foreign policy, traditional rivalries and hostilities between countries are gradually turning into economic relationships. In the contemporary world, countries prefer the goal of shared economic prosperity and human development over their centuries old intractable disputes. Channels of dialogue and negotiations are kept open and the economic interests of countries take precedence over hard-core ideologies.
Most analyst hold view that 21st century is the century of Asians. In our part of Asia we have two economic giants India and China and share border with both. Pakistan due to its proximity is bound to have spill-over implications of their policies especially because of Sino Pak strategic partnership and friendship. Pakistan needs to put aside its India centric approach in new arena andmake a thorough assessment of its current foreign policy and weigh its losses against the benefits. For this to happen, civilian and military officials have to shun their differences and provide space to each other’s viewpoint. Present government is well aware that a strong economy, political stability, abundant energy and a satisfactory law and order situation would attract foreign investment, thus building new economic and diplomatic partnerships with other countries is top most priority. Moreover, Pakistan needs active lobbying in powerful countries to push for its interests. A flexible and pragmatic foreign policy would definitely revive Pakistan’s lost status in the world.