With Pakistan’s new government soon to be in office, it is hoped that the government will give due importance to foreign policy. Presently, the country’s economy does not portray a flourishing picture. The security situation has improved but still the threat exists. On the foreign policy front, the pace has been slow, and the country has not been able to make headways regionally, beyond and internationally.
The political party with majority vote is PTI, which contested the election on the manifesto to end corruption. People’s vote for an honest leader shows that the evil of corruption has caused enough damage to the Pakistani society and people want change, liberation from the corrupt practices and merit oriented system. The Prime Minister in weighting Imran Khan, is a cricketer turn politician. His being not from a political family shows that dynastic politics a dominant feature of Pakistani politics is slowly diminishing. This is a positive trend, and a progressive march towards merit oriented politics.
Pakistan as a South Asian country and international player faces challenges on many fronts. Regionally, the hostile intra-state relations coupled with terrorism have antagonized the security environment. The situation in Afghanistan, India-Pakistan conflictual politics are the prime concerns. Globally, the situation is equally challenging, ranging from the trend of regionalism to China’s growth and the US re-balance strategy. In this backdrop, a country’s foreign and security policies should be aligned with the prevailing trends. Thesecurity and foreign policies are both equally important, and should go hand in hand, both should complement each other. However, depending upon the circumstances, at times, the security policy needs to lead while at some point, the foreign policy should be at the forefront. In peace the foreign policy is at the front, in crisis, diplomacy tries to calm the situation, and ease pressure. While, in a conflict like scenario, the security takes the lead. The hostility perpetrated in the form of terrorism and territorial conflicts requires a coercive response. While, to counter the narrative reinforcing insinuations of mistrust needs a diplomatic maneuvering. Pakistan’s security policy aims at countering the terrorist threat. The positive image projection of Pakistan needs an effective counter narrative for domestic, regional and international audiences.
The CPEC, a much talked about subject, is an opportunity and a step towards regional connectivity. Pakistan’s Gwadar port central to CPEC enhances the country’s regional positioning. However, the opportunity cannot be utilized without having regional peace. In this regard, peace in Afghanistan, relations with Iran and India need to be improved. Iran borders Pakistan’s Balochistan province (909 kilometres border). The bilateral relations, despite religious and cultural similarities have failed to develop into a partnership. The neglect to foster bilateral cooperation has been exploited by other regional quarters. The relations with Afghanistan is another example of regional politics. The relations with India are hostile, both the players view each other from the prism of partition.The challenge for Pakistan is how to move forward, brush aside the past differences and improve ties. Bilaterally, other than political and military exchange, efforts should be made to promote people-to-people interaction. The opposition to CPEC can be diluted by projecting the geo-economic benefits linked to the corridor, and negating the notion of power politics.The idea of regionalism and intra-regional homogeneity should be promoted. The narrative that SAARC as a region needs to progress. The area’s population facing challenges of poverty should not suffer of global politics, and together emerge as a united bloc. With CPEC, China’s regional role is likely to grow, which, in turn, could prompt counter moves. Thereby, it will be a test for the new political leadership to adjust with the regional and global developments. Where the political forces offer challenges, there exist opportunities as well. The political actor which is able to make correct interplay of domestic, security and foreign policy options is likely to be adjusted in the global arena. Pakistan needs to strengthen itself internally, project it’s credentials to the outside world and employ the coercive muscle to frustrate the adversarial advances.
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