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How good is our foreign policy?

Pakistan appears to be losing out on its global outreach. The country’s national foreign policy is somehow not working. Few recent happenings explain it all.

China last week hosted a ‘High-level Dialogue on Global Development’ on the sidelines of the BRICS summit. Besides the five members of BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — a sideline event held in a virtual format was participated by Algeria, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Malaysia and Thailand. Pakistan was not invited. A communique issued after the meeting said the leaders of 18 countries discussed global development issues of common interest and reached extensive consensus on promoting cooperation in the areas of poverty reduction, for development, food security, pandemic response and vaccines, financing climate change and green development, industrialisation, digital economy and connectivity.

The Foreign Office of Pakistan in its one-liner statement stated: “One member blocked Pakistan’s attendance”. This notorious ‘one member’ is obviously India.

It is inconceivable that China, being a host and holding the leadership of BRICS, could not have prevailed upon and invited Pakistan, especially when all the neighbouring countries were invited to the event. But China opted not to do so. This is really worrisome as Pakistan has almost put all its eggs in one basket: China.

Argentina and Iran have applied to join the BRICS and most likely will be welcomed to this organisation.

Pakistan’s presence was justified by being a partner with China in its flagship CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) project and its presence would have provided the opportunity to develop linkages, notably, with the Central Asia states that were invited. The cold attitude of China is meaningful and cannot be ignored. It must be thought over by our foreign affairs ministry. Also, the country’s leadership needs to revisit the policy in relation to China. In the process the country has alienated many former European, Japanese and South Korean partners.

In an OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) meeting held in the UAE some years back, the UAE prevailed as the host and the then India’s external minister the late Sushma Swaraj was invited to the event as the chief guest despite Pakistan’s objection. Pakistan did not attend the session in protest. India did. So much for our Arab friends. Last year President Biden invited 40 world leaders to the leaders’ summit on climate change. Pakistan was not invited although it is on the UN list of being most vulnerable to climate change. Also, the UN has recorded its appreciation of Pakistan’s initiative, notably, the massive tree-plantation campaign.

Pakistan is struggling since 2018 to move out of FATF grey list. India is suspected to be influencing FATF in blocking Pakistan’s exit from the grey list. The cold response from our so-called friends and foes alike makes it clear that our foreign policy is not working. Weak economy, political instability, inconsistent foreign policy are some reasons for it.

Economy is the foremost. President Clinton’s answer to a question some year back that ‘it’s all about economy stupid’ holds so true. It is important to note that economy dictates foreign policy, strategic commercial and defence alliances, voice in world politics. Pakistan has no added value to offer. On the contrary, it perpetually seeks help from other countries. Pakistan’s foreign policy is fragmented. There are different powerful players in Pakistan who are pursuing their independent foreign policy at different tangents, with different interests and with different approaches.

No government which means business would ever permit such fragmented interaction with foreign governments; Pakistan is an exception. Foreign powers rejoice in this selective approach — on a need basis — as it well serves their specific purpose. A lack of a national foreign policy compromises Pakistan’s national interest and strength. The foreign ministry must be the only interface between the Pakistan’s government and the foreign governments and all other institutions should be subservient to the dictates of the national foreign policy and the foreign ministry.

The first approach to global outreach and a voice in global politics is to strengthen the national economy at all costs. Once this is achieved and national self-respect restored, rest will fall in place.

Farhat Ali, "How good is our foreign policy?," Business recorder. 2022-07-02.
Keywords: Political sciences , Foreign policy , National economy , Food security , Economy , Pakistan , China , Brazil , Russia , India , Africa , Indonesia , Iran , BRICS , FATF , CPEC , UN

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