Pakistan has bought its way through crises of great power sponsorship by the US or a cortege relationship with China. Initially, the country doesn’t seem to have its traditional base of international support to shout its way through the threesome of economic, political, and security crises which she currently faces.
Due to its blessed geography and historical calibration with great powers, the political experts in Pakistan had suppressed the art of managing domestic crises by capitalizing on international crises; however, both the US and China seem to have lost interest in the country. Before a decade, strategically the country was important to both US and China. Despite Pakistan’s unpredictable policy on Afghanistan and a seductive relationship with the Taliban the country was essential for the US to continue its military operations in Afghanistan and a possible withdrawal at later stages. So, it tolerated these indiscretions with a pinch of salt.
On the other hand, China kept bringing up Pakistan as a reliable balancer against India and a bridge towards West Asia, both diplomatically and economically. Therefore, China sponsored Pakistan as a possible regional power that could match up with India and provide China with a reliable ally at international level. However, contrary to both great powers’ expectations, Pakistan proved to be a difficult and inflexible actor for both powers resulting in them distancing themselves from an unstable ally.
Pakistan needs its international sponsors now more than ever. Pakistan is struggling with a cripple economy, unstable politics, and an increasing security crisis. The bad governance by puppet political leaders & military leaderships have led to political crisis and increases in inflation. The former prime minister Imran khan has challenged the powerful military like no one has ever done before. The whole fabric of the political system hangs on a thread where the discontent has reached the point of incitement.
Further, Pakistan is facing the worst economic crisis of its history and is near to bankruptcy. The Draining foreign exchange reserves, a freefalling currency leading to heavy inflation, and exponentially external debt functions showings a dark image of the country’s financial prospects. Instead of that, the country is also facing security issues raised from internal political clashes and non-state terrorist groups operating within the country. The ever-growing insurgency threat from Afghan Taliban poses a serious threat to the country’s security.
Historically, Pakistan has dealt cleverly dealt its economic, military, diplomatic relations with US in the times of crises. But, after its hurried and dicey withdrawal from Afghanistan and the shifting focus from the complex politics of West Asia, US has lost interest on a trust broker ally. Pakistan and the America had a history of complicated partnership where the former willingly offered its services in exchange for quantifiable monetary benefits from the later. Right after independence, Pakistan received an inherited enmity with India, a much bigger and stronger rival which is managed by joining the Capitalist block rather than communism. Later, the country served as a diplomatic bridge between US and China, Pakistan helped US in access to the biggest market in the world. In the American self-proclaimed pious fight against Communism, Pakistan’s support was crucial first in providing US an active base for operations and training Taliban against Soviets in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani leadership, especially the military administration, was quite tricky in taking out major benefits for themselves in barter for their services. Whether it was the security crises on the Eastern side against India, economic crisis after the country’s assignation with socialism, or the political crisis after the country’s sever, US supported and aided Pakistan in different ways. US helped also not unconditionally but it gave much-needed breathing space to country from getting out of the crunch. Allegedly, US has had enough this time as it seems cautious to bail its former ally out of these self-administrated crises.
Pakistan’s supposed friend china, also seems to be losing interest in its, one of the oldest and perhaps the only strategic ally in the region. Historically, China has played the vital role as protector of the Pakistan at international stage by acting as the granter of first resort in economic crises and the security provider in case of military crises. However, Pakistan has proven as un cooperative and a rowdy friend for a bureaucratic and rules-driven China. Somehow, it seems that China has found alternatives, like Iran, that are politically mature and provide the same geographical advantages as Pakistan.
The Pakistani leadership seems happy when China announced its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as its essential project. Yet, the political instability of the country created hurdles for china on their onset of project. Therefore, China is also looking for the more predictable and stable regional partners that wouldn’t shy away from take up China’s bureaucratic-economic model.
Pakistan’s domestic politics is not that much capable to deal with current crises on its own. The international assistance model was never upheld; therefore, a joint framework on governance, democracy, and economics based on domestic capabilities and capacities is need of the hour.