Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our utmost contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.
Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan
Pakistan’s unique geographic location, is a regional crossroads that has meant that this resource-rich country has long been the focus of international power politics. Since its inception on 14 August 1947, Pakistan’s foreign policy has been through varying phases and subjected to paradigm shifts in order to adjust to a changing political and security environment, primarily in the region but also throughout the world. The neighbourhood and the legacies of its colonial past have been instrumental in determining Pakistan’s national objectives and foreign policy direction.
From the 1950s until mid-1960s, Pakistan sought alignment with the West; thereafter, Western countries intermittently engaged with Pakistan as a means to attaining strategic Cold-War goals linked to our region. Pakistan’s relationship with the West, then, can best be characterised as a ‘marriage of convenience’ which, despite Pakistan eventually rising to the status of a US ‘major non-NATO ally’ (MNNA) in 2004, never allowed for much of a feeling of ease or space.
Against the backdrop of the Kashmir dispute and the conflict in Afghanistan, security considerations regarding our neighbours have a considerable bearing not only on our policies toward developing international relations, but also on Pakistan’s domestic policies on defence, economy, education and social welfare. Moreover, such concerns, in preoccupying the South Asian Association for Regional
Co-operation (SAARC), have impeded progress throughout the region, which currently has the largest concentration of people living below the poverty line along with a host of adverse public health indicators. Pakistan sees the EU as a role model in terms of regional integration, and therefore aspires to promote co-operation among South Asian nations, under the umbrella of SAARC, to the benefit of the poor masses.
Ironically, the same countries that extended support to Pakistan’s past military governments are still inclined to peddle the misperception that Pakistan’s foreign policy is decided exclusively by the Army and the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This assertion needs to be assessed in light of the fact that Pakistan has a chequered political history, dominated by military rule, during which intermittent democratically elected civilian governments were removed through extra-constitutional Praetorian interventions while the entire world stood by and watched. The vision, priorities and policy approaches of these military and civilian governments were at variance with each other. Under the current democratic dispensation, the military is bound by the political process – the Pakistan Army’s recent action against militants in the Swat district, undertaken as a result of political consensus, are one example of this.
Nonetheless, some foreign policy factors, such as the Kashmir issue and Pakistan’s relations with India, remain constant. Successive governments, both military and civilian, have extended political, diplomatic and moral support to the people of Kashmir, advocating both their right to self-determination and the implementation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions on Kashmir. Despite two wars, Pakistan remains open for a bilateral negotiated settlement of the dispute while also being mindful of the importance of international intervention and mediation, especially considering that ever since May 1998, when both India and Pakistan carried out a series of nuclear tests, South Asia has been a potential nuclear flashpoint. Any fresh military standoff could lead to an untoward incident.
Pakistan has legislative control measures and institutional mechanisms for the safety of its nuclear arsenal. Talk of insecurity is pure speculation: we have no ulterior motives but to ensure minimum deterrence capability. The co-operation of Western countries in developing civil nuclear technology with one non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at the expense of another could prove counter-productive in their efforts of disarmament. Pakistan supports arms reduction initiatives, but it cannot subscribe to their selective or unequal application. Our position on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) is based on rationality and principles – as is our scepticism.
The Soviet invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan and the 9/11 tragedy have been watersheds in Pakistan’s socio-economic, internal political and external affairs spheres. On both occasions, non-elected representatives at the helm in Pakistan determined their country’s response without consultation, let alone any attempt to seek a national consensus, thus putting the fate of the entire country at risk. Regrettably, the West’s supposed proponents of democracy turned a blind eye to the dictatorial regimes then governing Pakistan, as it suited their strategic interests , and even went so far as to glorify the dictators.
Ideally, Pakistan’s foreign policy envisages harmonious, win-win partnerships with its neighbours, with the economically and technologically developed West, with Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member states (based on religious, linguistic and cultural affinities), with the nearby Southeast Asian states (as enshrined in its ‘Look East’ policy) and with emerging, politically important African nations.
Pakistan’s growing relations with China, the world’s second largest economy and a member of the UN Security Council, are strategically important within the framework of the Shanghai Co-Operation Organisation (SCO). Meanwhile, Pakistan and Russia – still a potential superpower with formidable economic and military might – have put the past behind them and are now ready to take relations forward independently, recognising the countries’ importance to each other. Here again, the SCO offers a multilateral forum to converge interests for mutual benefit.
With Afghanistan, we share abiding bonds of history, culture, geography, traditions and faith. Pakistan and land-locked Afghanistan are uniquely placed neighbours; we need each other in a way that no two other neighbours do. Pakistan, therefore, has a greater stake in the stability and peace in Afghanistan than others. The democratic Pakistani government’s principles of non-interference and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity have helped foster relations with Afghanistan and establish mutual trust. We believe that only regional processes and initiatives, many of which are already in place, will be able to ensure lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. With the withdrawal of coalition forces set to begin in July this year, Pakistan’s policy makers are mindful of the need to prepare for, and address, any fallout in this troubled country.
Pakistan has maintained a keen interest in UN affairs and is active in various spheres of the organisation’s activities – for example, it is the single largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world. Pakistan is also an active participant in debates on proposed UN reforms, currently advocating – along with a large group of UN nations known as ‘Uniting for Consensus’ – an expansion of the Security Council to make the body more democratic and representative.
Given its strategic importance to the region and the Islamic world, its nuclear capability and a population of some 175 million consumers, Pakistan welcomes relationships on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual respect, non-interference in each other’s domestic matters and recognition in its own right, rather than as a mere ‘strategic interest’ linked to the other countries in the region.