A change in Pakistan’s foreign policy has been on the horizon for a considerable time. One cannot repudiate the complex geo-strategic location of Pakistan on the world map. This complexity has always stayed put Pakistan’s pivot focus over the geostrategic policies. Primarily, Pakistan’s neighboring states India, Afghanistan, and Iran hold Pakistan’s pivot focus over geo-strategic policies. The hostile relations with India and conflicts between Iran with other powers and Afghanistan being war-torn made the borders of Pakistan insecure. Pakistan has borne the weight of other wars with this costly policy.
The Cold War era can be an example of it when Pakistan went into the US camp against the Soviet Union. Pakistan trained the mujahideen on a US call which acted as the anti-Soviet rebels and affected Pakistan’s security and stability later on. Pakistan propped up the US which upshot Pakistan’s hostile relations with the Soviets. After the Soviets dismantled, the US returned to Afghanistan with the banner of war against terrorism. Pakistan again suffered due to its geopolitical location and strategic alliance with the US. Pakistan suffered casualties, economic loss, and an overflow of Afghan refugees as a consequence of being a geopolitical ally of the US and a neighbor of Afghanistan.
The geo-strategic policies of Pakistan brought out deleterious effects and hindered its growth of Pakistan. World major powers after the World wars and proxy wars in the cold war era realized that in this period of nuclear advancement, the use of force would be destructive. Nowadays, economic and cyber-security wars are a way of superseding other states or as means of balancing. The US-China trade war for thrusting each other by imposing tariffs is a prime example of it and now artificial intelligence and cyberwarfare are new means in town.
In all these happenings, a shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy was seen clearly in the Saudi-Iran proxy war where Pakistan rather than showing any tilt towards one or indulging itself in another war, presented itself to act as a mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The other example of it could be the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pakistan acted as a key player in bringing out the Taliban and the US government on the table of negotiations. These moves indicated that Pakistan has shifted its policy to refrain from indulging in US wars and is now willing to build relations with other states. Strong building ties with Russia is an example of it. The realization to maximize the gains and follow-up of world policies to compete with them made Pakistan de-focus on geopolitics. First time Pakistan documented its National Security Policy.
The objectives and determinants which used to be only security-centric have now shifted per the ground realities. Now National security policy includes economic stability and independence. The sovereignty and dignity of Pakistan are linked up with economic well-being now. As stated earlier, Pakistan has now said “ABSOLUTELY NOT” in indulging its-self in any other war with the US.
Last year the Former FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi gave a statement that :
“My government attaches great importance to enhancing Pakistan’s trade and economic relations with our partners. Transformed Pakistan’s focus is shifting from geopolitics to geo-economics … Our new economic security paradigm has three essential pillars: peace, development partnerships, and connectivity.”
After withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US reportedly asked Pakistan for bases to sustain itself being a watchdog over Afghanistan but Pakistan refused to become a source of any interference.
Now Pakistan’s prime focus is on strengthening Pakistan through economic means. For this reason, Pakistan has built strategic ties and bilateral trade with Russia. The predominant factor which tilted Pakistan’s interest is the Pak- China economic corridor. China initiated a project of 6 corridors to connect with South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia through economic ties. The economic corridor with Pakistan from Gwadar which is the shortest land access to the Arabian Sea holds the greatest importance for China. On other hand, this economic corridor is a game changer and a source of a policy shift for Islamabad. Albeit, the same cannot be said for the local population of Balochistan and Gilgit, the two gateways of CPEC, who are out on streets resisting the exploitative advances of China.
But for the ruling elite, this mega project translates to economic development and foreign direct investments. The project of the largest maritime route of this century is building up the financial ties of Pakistan with China. At this time, Pakistan is facing an economic crisis due to political instability. For the first time Pakistan is majorly concerned to build up mutual benefit relations with regional and neighboring powers.
Though the journey is prolonged to make Pakistan a strong economic power on the World map, this time the establishment seems to have realised that fighting proxy wars is not sitting well with the economic stability of the country. The escalating political tensions and resurgence of TTP attacks could be the hurdles in the way but Pakistan this time needs to continue the parallel policy of security and economic independence for progress and prosperity.