Pakistan’s 70-Year Foreign Policy- A Critical Evaluation

Ayaz Ahmed
The discipline of international relations treats the application of diplomacy a significant source of national powers designed to attain core foreign policy objectives. Since 1947, all the successive governments in Pakistan have adopted different approaches to foreign policy to maximize the overriding economic and security objectives of the country. Due to the entrenched leadership crisis, most of the political dispensations have, however, failed to employ the foreign policy to ensure effective security and economic self-sufficiency of the country. Given the country’s potential resources and its significant geostrategic location, a competent leadership is needed to make the current defective foreign policy pragmatic.
While critically evaluating the 70-year foreign policy of Pakistan, it is pertinent to discover different eras of the country’s external policy adopted since 1947.

The era of friendship with all (1947-53)
After the independence, Quaid-i-Azam described the core principles of the country’s foreign policy by categorically stating that: “The foundation of our foreign policy is friendship with all nations across the globe.” Pakistan forged amicable relations with the newly established Muslim countries, and supported the freedom movements of Indonesia, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Eritrea against the Western colonial powers.
Despite Jinnah’s peace overtures, India adopted an expansionist policy towards Pakistan by annexing the princely states of Junagadh, Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir, which led to the outbreak of the war over Kashmir in 1947. Besides, New Delhi prevailed upon Afghanistan to reject the Durand Line as the permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Such antagonistic behaviour of India cultivated the bitter seed of perennial hostility between both the countries.
Alignment with the West (1953-1963)

Due to the Indian threat and the spectre of communism in Asia, prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan snubbed Moscow’s invitation of visiting the Soviet Union and, instead, he chose to pay a historic visit to the US in 1950. For, after the deadly World War Second, the former Soviet Union did not possess adequate monetary resources and sophisticated weapons to assist Pakistan’s budding economy and ensure its security from the hawkish Indian posturing.

Khan’s visit conclusively demonstrated Pakistan’s tilt to the US-led West, which prompted the Soviet Union to partner with India regionally. The US-Pak partnership helped both the countries to conclude the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement in 1954. Under the accord, the US arranged to provide modern war training to Pakistan’s armed forces. Such effective training helped increase the capacity and capability of Pakistan’s troops viz-a-viz India.
The signing of Seato and Cento in 1954 and 1955, respectively, further cemented the US-Pak relations. Through these regional blocs, the US wished to contain the proliferation of communism in South, West and East Asia. Washington rewarded Pakistan’s support against the Soviet Union by providing economic and military assistance to Islamabad.
Though president Ayub Khan allowed the US to fly spy mission to the Soviet Union from Pakistan’s territory, Washington avoided supplying economic and military aid to Islamabad during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Worse, the US resorted to placing economic and military embargoes on Pakistan after the war.
The era of transition (1963-72)
Pakistan had to change its policy towards the West due to the US military assistance to India during the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the Soviet Union’s threat to retaliate after its downing of a US spy plane, U-2, which had taken off from Badaber, Peshawar.
Despite the Soviet Union’s earlier threat, Moscow offered credit and technical assistance for oil exploration in Pakistan in 1961. New avenues of cooperation were explored during the visits of Pakistan’s foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and president Ayub Khan to Moscow in January and April in 1965, respectively. Ayub Khan’s visit made the Soviet Union assist Pakistan in implementing 30 development projects during the Third Five Year Plan (1965-70). Moscow adopted a balanced approach towards the Kashmir problem and demonstrated neutrality during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Soviet prime minister Alexi Kosygin helped India and Pakistan resolve the problems arising out of the 1965 war through the Tashkent Declaration signed in January 1966.
Pakistan’s relations with China enhanced rapidly during the same period. The two countries signed several agreements in trade, shipping and border demarcation in 1963 to expand their bilateral relations. Moreover, when Pakistan supported China in its efforts to counterbalance the US attempt at isolating Beijing regionally, Chinese president Zhou Enlai declared Beijing’s support to the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination in February 1964.
The era of bilateralism and non-alignment (1972-79)

President Bhutto endeavoured to diversify the foreign relations by withdrawing the country from the Commonwealth and Seato in 1972. He fostered the country’s economic and diplomatic relations with East European, Asian, African and South and Central American states. Pakistan also withdrew from Cento in March 1979 to join the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) in September in the same year.

 Moreover, Bhutto signed the Simla Accord with India on 2 July 1972, which resulted in the release of over 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war in Indian custody and removal of Indian troops on Pakistan’s soil. After hosting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Islamabad in February 1974, he made a prodigious success in restoring Pakistan’s image after the separation of East Pakistan and enhancing the country’s leadership role in the Muslim world. During Bhutto’s period, the country made significant headways in establishing robust relations with China and the Soviet Union. Resultantly, Moscow agreed to provide loans to help recover Pakistan’ economy.
When Pakistan entered into an agreement with France in 1976 to acquire a nuclear reprocessing plant, the US withdrew its A-7 aircraft offer in 1977 and suspended economic assistance and military sales in 1977 to prevent Islamabad from establishing uranium enrichment facilities. Washington succeeded to convince France in 1978 to withdraw from the agreement for supplying a nuclear reprocessing plant to Pakistan.
The era of Afghan war (1979-88)

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 once again made the US bury the hatchet with Pakistan and forge a strong partnership with Islamabad designed to defeat the Red Army in Afghanistan. Both the CIA and ISI prepared a raft of fighters, trained them and dispatched them to Afghanistan against the Soviet forces. At the time when the Soviet Union had been crushingly defeated in Afghanistan in 1988, Pakistan became the second largest American aid recipient after Israel. However, the disruptive Afghan war adversely impacted Pakistan’s economy and security condition by resulting in the proliferation of weapons and fanning religious extremism and militancy throughout the country.

The post-Cold War era (1990-2001)
When the Soviet Union decided to withdraw from Afghanistan under the Geneva Accords signed in 1988, the US began raising an accusing finger toward Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear programme. Therefore, Washington cancelled the sales of several F-16s and economic assistance to Islamabad under the Pressler amendment. However, after Benazir Bhutto’s visit to the US, the Clinton administration removed the embargoes on Pakistan and gave military supplies worth $ 368 million to Islamabad under the Brown amendment of 1995.
During the same period, the Indo-Pak relations also took a downward trajectory over the simmering Kashmiri unrest. When New Delhi had massively rigged 1987’s elections in the Kashmir Valley, the Kashmiri people took to the streets and demonstrated against the Indian blatant rigging of the elections. To silence the protesters, India resorted to employing brute force, thus instigating the Kashmiris to forcefully resist the Indian oppression. New Delhi accused Pakistan of orchestrating the instability in the valley and requested to the US to suspend the supply of aircraft and economic assistance to Islamabad.
However, India and Pakistan agreed on a framework for peaceful interaction when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Lahore in February 1999. But, the spirit of this declaration was ruined when the two countries engaged in a limited war in Kargil during May and July in 1999.
It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan’s backing to the Afghan Taliban in the 1990s strained the Pak-Iran relations, thereby making Iran jump into the Indian regional bandwagon.  At that time, both Iran and India were immersed in backing up non-Pashtun groups to prevent the Taliban from taking over Kabul.  Capitalizing on its rapprochement with Iran, India succeeded to persuade Tehran to jointly construct the Chabahar Port.  Sadly, both the PPP and the PML-N governments in the 1990s did not pay a serious heed to placate Iran with the intent to stopping it from forging strong relations with India.
The post 9/11 era
Under the Glenn amendment, the Clinton administration imposed economic and military sanctions on both Pakistan and India owing to their nuclear tests in May 1998. After the fateful 9/11 incident, the US not only lifted the sanction on Pakistan, Washington also made Islamabad the most allied ally in its war on terror. What is imperative to mention is that the Bush administration employed a policy of carrots and sticks to goad Pakistan into partnering with the US against terrorists ensconced in Afghanistan.
During the Musharraf era, Pakistan and India decided to reduce their nuclear arsenals and resolve the Kashmir issue in the Agra summit of July 2001. However, the Indian intransigent behaviour scuttled the Agra understanding. Menacingly, the attacks on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 brought both countries on the verge of a border confrontation with the potential of escalating into a full-blown nuclear showdown.  But after extensive efforts, both the countries agreed and enforced a ceasefire on the Line of Control on November 26, 2003.
Diversification of foreign policy under the PPP era (2008-2013)

Though the former PPP’s government was plagued by massive scandals of grafts, it succeeded to diversify the foreign relations of the country. The US signed the Kerry-Luger Bill in October 2009 to grant $ 7.5 billion of non-military aid to Pakistan. Besides, both the civilian and military leaderships played a pivotal role in resetting the Pak-Russia relations by paying high-profile visits to Moscow during the PPP tenure. Importantly, the Pak-Iran relations also improved after the signing of the Iran-Pak (IP) gas pipeline. However, the climate of trust between Pakistan and India, achieved during the Musharraf era, turned into hostility after the 2008 Mumbai attack, which India blamed on a Pakistani based militant group.

The era of current democratic set-up (2013 till present)

The current democratic dispensation under the PML-N has achieved two major objectives on the foreign policy front.  Firstly, the country has received the full-membership of the SCO that will tremendously help Pakistan work with China, Russia and Central Asian republics in combating the three evils of extremism, terrorism and separatism in the region. Secondly, China has decided to invest around $ 60 billion in upgrading Pakistan’s transport infrastructure and energy sector. Both the SCO’s membership and Chinese massive investments under CPEC will probably make the country the regional trade hub.

However, the incumbent government has failed to revisit the ambiguous foreign policy of the country. This is still unclear whether the ill-conceived policy of strategic depth toward Afghanistan against India has been discarded or not. Kabul considers this strategy of Pakistan as a deliberate attempt to interfere in its affairs. Therefore, Afghanistan has shown its unwillingness to reset its relations with Pakistan. Ominously, in retaliation, the Ashraf Ghani-led Afghan government has provided a carte blanche to India to use eastern provinces of Afghanistan to sponsor terrorism insurgency inside Pakistan.
Despite the US lifting of economic sanctions on Iran, the PML-N government has continued to drag its feet in terms of completing Pakistan’s portion of the IP gas pipeline. This has led Tehran to further forge its ties with New Delhi.  The latter is set to dominate the Central Asian markets by accessing the region through the Chabahar Port via Afghanistan, thus encircling Pakistan in South Asia. Islamabad direly requires the all-out support of Tehran in successfully combating the low-intensity insurgency in Balochistan and the threatening Shia-Sunni proxy war.
The present government has also failed to employ adroit diplomacy in highlighting gross human rights violations being committed by India in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir. The Indian lobby has continued to play the obstructive role in preventing the US from selling F-16s and providing the remaining Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan. Moreover, the government has failed to convince the world about Indian sponsoring of terrorism and insurgency inside Pakistan despite the availability of evidence such as the disclosure of detained Indian spy, Kulbushan Jadhav.
Despite losing about 50,000 lives and over $ 120 billion in the war on terror, the US is still doubtful of Pakistan’s military actions against the sanctuaries of the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. Washington has recently passed a bill making the payment of $ 50 million conditional to Pakistan’s visible military measures against the Haqqani Network. Furthermore, the US is also reluctant to conclude a civilian nuclear accord with Pakistan and is not supportive of Islamabad’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This manifests the failure of the government in terms of dexterously using diplomacy to enhance economic and security partnership with the US.
The way forward
Until the state introduces needed changes in its foreign policy approach, it will continue to face mounting external challenges in the days ahead.  Apart from the US and China, the government should diversify the country’s ties by cultivating robust relations with Russia, Britain, France and Germany. It is also vital to bridge the differences with Afghanistan and foster strong ties with both Kabul and Tehran for greater regional cooperation and connectivity.
Since the heavy reliance on the US and some international financial institutions has deprived the country of an independent foreign policy, it is of paramount importance to discard the policy of economic dependency. Equally important, a competent foreign minister should be appointed so that he or she will represent the country in international forums.
DisclaimerViews expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
Share your comments!