Pakistan: Foreign policy concerns

Pakistan has been isolated foreign policy-wise for a long time of its existence. Given the historical situation that Pakistan’s foundation met with more than only disapproval but with active counter action from its large and strong neighbor India and having to fight a war with that neighbor from the very start of life Pakistan was feeling the dire need for international acceptance and support as a matter of survival. As the German poet Schiller said in one of his works “the most pious man can’t live in peace if his neighbor is ill-wishing him”. That was why Pakistan went out for international support.  After the unfortunate postponement and final cancellation of Liaquat Ali Khan’s visit to Moscow because the Russian invitation by Joseph Stalin was for 14th August 1949, which was coinciding with Pakistan Day and had therefore, to be rescheduled it happened that Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan first went to USA; a decision that palled Pak-Soviet relation, and as a result Pakistan ended up in the iron arms of the US and their regional supporters SEATO and CENTO in 1954 and 1955 respectively. This visit of the Pakistani Prime Minister came after the Indian Premier Pundit Nehru’s visit to US, and surprisingly Liaquat Al Khan was given a more fabulous welcome as compared to the Indian Prime Minister. US President Harry Truman came to receive Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on the tarmac of Washington National Airport on 3rd May 1950 when US protocol prescribed that the President receives visiting dignitary at White House. The Pakistani Prime Minister felt elevated and must have thought that now he found a true friend. Before leaving for US he announced that Pakistan would remain neutral in the cold war and would not take sides in conflict of ideologies among nations. Later on he realized this decision as a mistake and had planned an official visit to Moscow in May 1952 but the cruel hands of conspirators did not allow him to repair this damage. It was also alleged that during Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s first visit to US, President Truman requested Pakistan’s premier to let the CIA construct a base in

Pakistan under the so-called communication agreement, strictly to keep an eye on the activities of Soviet Union—a request which was not granted by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. He also refused to send Pakistani combatant troops in support of US in Korean War. He asked for US assurance and unconditional support on the Kashmir and Pashtunistan issues which the US declined. It looks like a rethinking in US policy was made and later when our first Finance Minister Ghulam Mohammad visited the US he on his own and without the Cabinet approval to please Americans by agreeing to allow control over our fiscal and monetary system. This angered Liaquat Ali Khan and when he arrived in Rawalpindi for his public meeting he summoned Ghulam Mohammad who on return from US tour had got himself admitted in Rawalpindi CMH and expressed his disapproval of this act not knowing that the die was already cast and he was assassinated while addressing public meeting in Company Bagh, Rawalpindi the next day.

Despite many bad experiences from this alliance with the US Pakistan could not free itself from this iron clutch in the situation that cold war was reining and that Soviet Union had come close to India. The end of the cold war brought another twenty five years of turmoil starting from the break-up of the Soviet Union and the communist camp. The US became the single super power and became the ‘police man’ of the world. But this situation was not going to last and with China coming up and Russia recovering from the break-up another political and economic pole has been forming in the shape of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).  Pakistan tried to mend its fences with the Soviet when President Ayub Khan first rescinded the communication agreement in 1963 and closed the US base in Badebair from where the U2 mission was undertaken then President Ayub Khan visited Moscow in 1965, later Soviets sponsored Tashkent talks between India and Pakistan and helped to finance the establishment of the largest industrial complex-the Pakistan Steel, which successive governments are hell bound to privatize instead of revamping this stamp of Pakistan-Russian cooperation.

This new constellation in SCO is a forebode of a new balance in international politics and Pakistan for the first time after 1951 has a real chance to come out from the iron clutches of US and rearrange its foreign alignments. SCO was founded in 2001 as an economic organization mainly trying to balance the overarching influence of the US and NATO. With 9/11 and its aftermath security and terrorism-related issues were included in the agenda. Pakistan has been admitted an observer country in 2005 and since then has actively followed the activities of this organization. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s relationship with Russia that had been strained throughout many years has improved fundamentally. Since 2007 Russian delegations started visiting Pakistan and vice versa and in 2011 Russia changed its former stand and started supporting Pakistan’s membership in SCO. The military leadership of Russia and Pakistan started interacting; in 2011 Gen. Kayani went on an official visit to Moscow and in August 2013 a first strategic dialogue was conducted between the two countries. During the current visit of Secretary General, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Dimitry Mezentsev in Pakistan and in the Foreign Office in Islamabad Mr. Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry both received the Secretary General of SCO and during their meeting made a strong case for Pakistan to be admitted as a full member into the SCO.  Given the fact that Pakistan by now has intensive and good relations with most countries in the region this proposal may have a good chance of being accepted? It would be the right step in the right direction for Pakistan to intensify relations within the region with neighbors and distance Pakistan from the unfortunate connection to the US. Another probable favorable outcome could be to finally find the financial means for construction of the utterly needed gas pipeline from Iran on the Pakistani side that has been delayed so far because of US sanction threats against financial institutions and individual countries. Pakistan can benefit from Russia as a trading partner in the textile sector and for developing oil and gas resources in the energy sector.

There could be many more fields of cooperation including military, security but also education. After all Russia is an Asian country that is sharing many more values with us than we are aware of. In any case Russia is almost a neighbor of ours and it has proven to be a reliable friend of its partners; just ask Bashar al Assad. Of course, Russia is a friend of India also and its relationship with Pakistani is not going to affect or change that. This is only fair and should not make us dither. Pakistan needs strong friends and partners in the region and at the end of the day our relationship with India also will have to come clear. Membership in the SCO would be a wonderful beginning. GOD Bless Pakistan.

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