To begin with it may not be wrong to say that since independence Pakistan’s foreign policy has been dictated by the United States. During the Ayub Khan Era Pakistan got the maximum aid, grants and loans, during which some analysts also called the Cold War era. During this period, an airbase in Pakistan was used by the United States for spying against the then USSR.
When the USSR attached Afghanistan, Pakistan was dragged into the proxy war in the name of Jihad during the Ziaul Haq Era. Then in the Musharraf Era, Pakistan was once again assigned a role to eliminate the Taliban, the Jihadi group created and funded by the United States to avert a USSR attack. Pakistan is still fighting the US proxy war in Afghanistan. The fallout of Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan is cross-border engagements that also includes an attack by the United States on Sala check post.
Pakistan has fought three wars with India, which have dented the two-nation theory and resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. Pakistan spends billions of dollars every year in a bid to maintain minimum deterrence level and to counter Indian war mania. Both the countries have attained the status of nuclear powers, but Kashmir remains the biggest thorn, which has kept both the countries in a constant state of war since independence. Over the decades both the countries have failed in developing even working relationship with each other. It may not be wrong to say that all the efforts to normalize relationships between the two countries have been sabotaged by hawks present on both sides of the border. Despite enjoying a common border, rail and road links official trade between the two countries is a fraction of total trade conducted through a third country or smuggling.
Worse yet have been the relationships with Afghanistan, which still refuses to accept the demarked borders. It was the only country that opposed Pakistan’s entry in the United Nations. The country during the monarch era enjoyed a most cordial relationship with India and USSR. Most of the modern day Afghans consider Pakistan their worst enemy as it has been accused of killing hundreds of Afghans in a war against the Taliban and cross-border terrorism is most common. Lately, in a bid to contain Afghan infiltration, when Pakistan decided to construct fence and gates, Afghanistan once again started talking about the disputed border.
For decades, Pakistan has been providing transit facility to Afghanistan, which is not considered a favor, but its right. To undermine Pakistan’s importance India is contracting a port in Iran, Chabahar, and road and rail links up to Central Asian countries passing through Afghanistan. It is necessary to point out that India was involved in the construction of this Iranian port at a time the country faced worst economic sanctions. It may be said that the United States kept its eyes and ears closed as it also wanted an alternate route.
During the Shah’s era Pakistan enjoyed an extremely cordial relationship with Iran, but after the Islamic revolution, Pakistan’s foreign policy went into the shadow of the United States and Saudi Arabia. Despite the recent withdrawal of sanctions imposed on Iran, Pakistan and has not come out of this dictate. Pakistan has not been able to establish banking links with Iran, a must for boosting trade between the two countries. Not a drop of crude oil is being imported from Iran, contrary to the fact that India remained one of the major buyers of Iranian oil even when sanctions were in pace.
China is often termed as time-tested friend, but the response from Pakistan is often disappointing. Many anti-China groups have emerged in Pakistan, mostly based in Baluchistan. They are also trying to spread disinformation about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is also on record that many Chinese engineers and workers have been attacked and killed. One has all the reasons to doubt Indian support to the militant groups because Gwader port will reduce the importance of Chabahar.
To conclude, it is sufficient to say that ever since the PML-N government headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif has come into power, the cabinet is without a full-time Foreign Minister. Mian Sahib’s tilt towards Saudi Arabia is a major hurdle in improving the country’s relationship with Iran, as he himself overseas the Foreign Ministry. Ironically, the relationship with both Saudi Arabia and United States has deteriorated after the withdrawal of sanctions imposed on Iran.
It is feared that a tweaked foreign policy is pushing Pakistan towards isolation. It may be true that Pakistan enjoys a geopolitically important position, but it has not been able to take advantage of its location. Pakistan needs a vibrant foreign policy and a young and more articulated full time Foreign Minister. The current advisors are part of past legacies and also see the world with tinted glasses.