Pakistan: Foreign Policy Dilemma

Pakistan and neighbors It is often said that Pakistan enjoys geopolitically important position but this factor has become its worst enemy. Pakistan’s location has made it highly vulnerable country, be it global politics or ongoing war on terror. Since there are too many state and non-state operators in the region it is often difficult to distinguish between friend and foe.

It is evident that forces having conflicting interests are busy in establishing their hegemony in the region, often undermining Pakistan’s interest and at times subjugating its sovereignty. In such a delicate but complicated situation maintaining good relationship with immediate neighbors and regional and global super powers becomes extremely difficult. This often poses serious threats for the sovereignty of the country.

Pakistan’s top most concern is maintaining cordial relationship with three of its immediate neighbors namely, Afghanistan, Iran and India. In the regional context Pakistan also has to keep happy three regional powers i.e. Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. On top of all it has to follow instructions of United States, leading war on terror in Afghanistan. At time US mantra becomes unbearable because it is promoting India as regional super power and completely ignoring its ‘frontline partner in war against terror’.

A few days before dissolution of assemblies, PPP led coalition government transferred control of Gwadar port to China and commenced work on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Some experts say that United States, Saudi Arabia and India are not happy with these decisions. They even go to the extent of saying that the two decisions were the reasons for PPP’s defeat in the general election.

Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif is too keen to grant India MFN status and consolidating trade and investment relationship with it. In this endeavor transfer of control of Gwadar port to China becomes a big stumbling block. India is not at all happy on this decision, as it considers presence of China in the Indian Ocean the biggest hurdle in achieving status of regional super power. India also considers Gwadar a big threat for Chabahar port, which it is building at distance of 70 kilometers from Gwadar in Iran. In this venture India enjoys complete support of United States as at no point in time India was warned of violating sanctions imposed on Iran.

Historically, Saudi Arabia has been kind enough to extend financial support to Pakistan and even at this juncture it is willing to offer US$15 billion bailout package to the country. While people many of Mian Sahib’s critics term the package a hoax call there are also growing apprehensions even in the minds of those who are termed ‘cool headed’. They say Pakistan will have to accept either Saudi bailout package or Iranian gas but can’t enjoy both.  Therefore, it is apprehended that Mian Shaib under the pressure of United States and Saudi Arabia may shelf Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which will not be a good omen for Pakistan-Iran relationship.

Keeping this complicated scenario in mind, it was believed that Mian Sahib will appoint a well articulated full time foreign minister. Since the influx of experts from all the above stated countries is likely to increase in due course, it will be imprudent that prime minister negotiate with those dignitaries, who will not be enjoying the status of prime minister.

Experts also fear that Mian Sahib is likely to get overindulged in domestic issues, especially energy crisis and precarious law and order situation which will not allow him to spend around 10 to 12 hours a day on foreign policy issues.

Mian Sahib having decided to oversee this ministry has appointed two stalwarts to advise him on foreign policy, these are former foreign minister Sartaj Aziz and former senior diplomat Tariq Fatemi. However, the two are not on the same wave length and are likely to create more problems rather than ensuring smooth handling of crucial foreign policy issues.

Some experts say that Mian Sahib does not have any competent person to be appointed as foreign minister. PPP had chosen Ms Hina Rabbani as a replacement for Shah Mahmood Qureshi and appointed Ms Shery Rehman Ambassador in United States. Therefore, Mian Sahib needs two replacements, one to fill the slot of foreign minister and other to occupy the most important position in Washington. He may have to continue with the ambassadors stationed in Saudi Arabia, China, India, Russia and Afghanistan for the time being.

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