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Quaid’s vision of foreign policy

The Founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had envisioned the newly independent Muslim state’s foreign policy to be one of “peace with all, and enmity with none”. Pakistan must follow the doctrine of non-alignment, said the Quaid-i-Azam, in his broadcast talk to the people of the USA in February 1948 said:

“Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and good-will towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the policy 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 of the United Nations Charter.”

The Quaid’s foreign policy vision thus stipulated Pakistan’s steadfast adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, particularly the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, non-interference in each other’s affairs, and peaceful settlement of bilateral disputes.

Functionally, he also expected the nation’s irrevocable commitment to the ideals of democracy, pluralism, market economy, social justice, communal harmony and egalitarian order. Based on the Quaid’s principles, the basic goals of Pakistan’s foreign policy can be summed up as “preservation of sovereign independence and territorial integrity, socio-economic development, maintenance of Islamic identity while progressing as a modern and forward-looking democratic nation pursuing in solidarity with the international community the cause of global peace and security and making Pakistan a strong factor of regional and global stability.”

Geography places on Pakistan the onerous responsibility of consistent vigilance and careful conduct of its relations not only with its immediate neighbours but also with the rest of the world, particularly the major powers. Pakistan’s foreign policy thus has been determined primarily by its geo-political environment and concomitant compulsions of national security and territorial integrity.

Against this backdrop, Pakistan’s external relations since the very beginning of our independent statehood have been marked by four major constants:

1. Our quest for security and survival as an independent state.

2. The legacy of our troubled relationship with India which in fact constituted the centre-point of our foreign policy.

3. Our excessive reliance on the West for our economic, political and military survival; and

4. Our total solidarity with the Muslim world, and unflinching support to Muslim causes.

No wonder Pakistan’s foreign policy has remained marked by a complex balancing process in the context of the turbulent history of the region in which it is located, its own geo-strategic importance, its security compulsions, and the gravity and vast array of its domestic problems. In the process, Pakistan has encountered a series of challenges and experienced wars and territorial setbacks. It has lost half the country, and even today, it continues to live in a hostile neighbourhood.

Our strategic location was pivotal to the global dynamics of the Cold War era. The policy of containment was enacted on our soil and we were a major player in dismantling what the free world once called the “evil empire” of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the post- 9/11 scenario has placed us in a very negative image as “the breeding ground” of “religious extremism, violence and militancy.”

The sum-total of our foreign policy today is our post-9/11 identity on the global radar screen as the “ground zero” of the war on terror. This negative perception complicates things for Pakistan both domestically and externally, and limits its policy options.

DOMESTIC PERSPECTIVE Unfortunately, decades of political instability resulting from protracted military rule, institutional paralysis, poor governance, socio-economic malaise, rampant crime and corruption, and general aversion to the rule of law have left us politically unstable, economically weak, socially fragmented and physically disintegrated.

Our domestic failures have not only seriously constricted our foreign policy options but also exacerbated Pakistan’s external image and standing. Today, from being a major power in South Asia always equated with India, Pakistan is bracketed with Afghanistan in terms of its outlook, role, needs and problems. This is an unenviable distinction which circumscribes our role both within and beyond our region.

THE CHALLENGES For over sixty-five years, we have followed a foreign policy that we thought was based on globally recognised principles of inter-state relations and which in our view responded realistically to the exceptional challenges of our times. But never did we realise that for a perilously located country, domestically as unstable and unpredictable as ours, there could be not many choices in terms of external relations.

In recent years, grave crises and acute problems have proliferated in our volatile region in a manner that has not only made Pakistan the focus of world attention and anxiety but also forced it to make difficult choices in its perennial struggle for security and survival as an independent state. Our problems are further aggravated by the complex regional configuration with a growing Indo-US nexus, India’s strategic ascendancy in the region and its unprecedented influence in Afghanistan with serious nuisance potential against Pakistan’s security interests and legitimate strategic stakes in the region.

Pakistan’s biggest challenge now is to convert its pivotal location into an asset rather than a liability. We must restore our global image as a moderate, co-operative and responsible state, capable of living at peace with itself and with its neighbours. Instead of always blaming “others” for our problems, let’s have the courage to admit that there is something fundamentally wrong with our own governance patterns. The perennial leadership miscarriages are the root cause of our governance failures. In the ultimate analysis, our problems are not external. Our problems are domestic.

Even our external difficulties are the extension of our governance failures. There is no foreign policy worth its name in the absence of good governance which in today’s world is the real instrument of statecraft. No country has ever succeeded externally if it is weak and crippled domestically. Even a super power, the former Soviet Union could not survive as a super power only because it was domestically week in political and economic terms.

WAY FORWARD Our foremost priority is to fix the fundamentals of our governance. We need domestic consolidation, politically, economically and socially. Governance must be based on the rule of law, accountability and absolute justice on non-discriminatory basis. While preserving our Islamic identity in its real essence, we must extricate ourselves of the distortionist forces of extremism, obscurantism, intolerance, militancy and violence.

Our peculiar socio-economic and political culture, high rate of poverty and illiteracy, and inequality of wealth and power require fundamental changes in our political system and governance patterns. Temperamentally, we are a ‘presidential’ nation. It is time we abandoned the system that we have never been able to practice and opted for an adult franchise-based ‘presidential system’ suitably designed for and tailored to Pakistan’s needs. Also needed is rationalisation of our federal system in order to address the problems of provincial disharmony and regional disparities.

We must opt for self-reliance and national dignity. No begging. Loans are not capital; they are a liability. Foreign aid is never unconditional. Let us dispense with them focusing on optimum utilisation of our own material wealth and human resources. We need to capitalise on our agricultural, economic, industrial and technological potential. Simplicity and austerity should be the cardinal principles of our national life in all its spheres.

No more blind faith in the so-called “Friends of Pakistan.” Let’s be our own friends and seek home-grown solutions to our problems. Our leaders must give up the Marco Polo culture. No more foreign visits unless unavoidable in national interest. No more World Economic Forums, no more state-funded Umra junkets. Corruption must be rooted out from all segments of our society and at all levels of the government and its institutions.

The sanctity of Pakistan’s territorial integrity must be observed with no relaxation or exemption. From now onward, no piece of land in any part of the country should be gifted or leased for any purpose to foreign rulers, sheikhs, princes or states and their governments. No more ‘Shamsi Bases.’

Pakistan needs to develop a well thought-out road map regarding the following points:

—- An independent foreign policy based on the Quaid’s vision: peace with all, enmity with none, and premised on universally established inter-state relations.

—- Steadfast adherence to the principles of the UN Charter, particularly the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, non-interference and peaceful settlement of issues.

—- Respect for all internationally recognised human rights and fundamental values and freedoms.

Pakistan needs to have special relationship of abiding friendship and co-operation with its neighbours, especially China, solidarity with the Muslim world and its causes, close co-operative links with Central Asian States, multi-dimensional co-operative relationship with the US, Japan, Canada and EU countries on the basis of sovereign equality and mutuality of benefit, and the principle of friendship with all, enmity with none, as the main pillars of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Pakistan’s territory should not be allowed to be used as a staging ground for terrorist activities in any other country. There shall be zero tolerance for militancy under any name or under any pretext.

It would be a good idea if, instead of the current “war on terror”, a Global Peace Initiative is launched under the UN auspices involving a comprehensive approach at global level aimed at addressing the underlying causes of this menace. We took principled position on the Kashmir issue seeking its final solution through peaceful means in conformity with the UN resolutions and legitimate aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Mutually beneficial economic co-operation both at bilateral and regional levels in South Asia and Central Asia within the frameworks of SAARC, ECO and SCO.

—- A highly ‘responsible nuclear-weapon state’ posture based on ‘credible minimum deterrence’ with strict adherence to restraint and responsibility and compliance with non-proliferation goals on non-discriminatory criteria-based terms with other nuclear-weapon states.

The world, especially our neighbours, must not forget that even before the Quaid had taken oath as the new Muslim nation’s governor general, he had outlined the basic tenets of Pakistan’s foreign policy in these words at a press conference on 14 July 1947 in Delhi: “We stand for the peace of the world. We will make our contribution whatever we can.”

These ideas were further explicated on 15 August, when as Governor-General of Pakistan, the Quaid observed: “Our objective should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbours and with world at large. We have no aggressive designs against any one. We stand by the United Nations Charter and will gladly make our contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.”

According to our Great Leader’s vision, we need to have a low-profile foreign policy formulated through institutional rather than personal approach with focus on country’s political, economic and strategic interests while following Hafiz Shirazi’s advice: “kindness to friends,” “courtesy to enemies”, with equal faith in Allama Iqbal’s message of “self-respect, esteem and dignity.”

(The writer is former secretary foreign affairs and member, National Academic Council of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Islamabad)

Shamshad a. Khan, "Quaid’s vision of foreign policy," Business recorder. 2013-04-14.