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Pakistan's flawed foreign policy and its internal dimensions
New Delhi |Friday, 2022 3:15:10 AM IST

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Pakistans foreign policy has traditionally been flawed, especially in times of critical importance, mainly due to the countrys highly-politicised foreign policy strategy which tends to link external policies with internal developments.

We have already witnessed how the government of Imran Khan desperately tried to reach out to Russia at a time when the world was unhappy with Russia for targeting Ukraine. Much against the desire of the West and at the cost of jeopardising relations with the US, Pakistan went ahead and engaged with the Russians in what many in Pakistan considered as 'Harakiri'.

The genesis of the Russian engagement smacked of lack of maturity and an element of brashness and shortsighted approach. Pakistan had been trying to reach out to Washington ever since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

A number of high-level delegations from Islamabad visited the US capital with request to extend support to Pakistan's plans in Afghanistan, as Pakistan realised that it cannot sustain its hold on the Taliban and Afghanistan without the blessings of the West and the US.

All such efforts by the Pakistani side were thwarted by the Americans, who, having walked out of Afghanistan in what is considered as a loss of face, preferred to maintain distance with Pakistan to the extent possible and at least for some time to come.

This was beyond the understanding of the Pakistanis who instead increased the pitch of their criticism of the US with Imran Khan going to the extent of complaining to the media about the refusal of the US President to speak with him over telephone.

The American approach to such Pakistani rhetoric was indeed based on their years of experience in Afghanistan and their knowledge of the intrusive role that Pakistani security agencies played in engaging various militant entities in a manner that was often at cross purposes with American interests.

US officials familiar with Afghanistan were aware of the deep linkages that Pakistani security agencies had with elements in Afghanistan whose identities and ideologies were often blurry.

There have been several instances when the Americans felt deceived by the Pakistanis who on one hand coordinated tactical strategies with the Americans, while at the same time were hand-in-gloves with elements inimical to American interests.

However, fretting over an issue such as this, Imran Khan probably decided to intentionally irritate the Americans by reaching out to the Russians at a time when any nation would have avoided such a visit.

In fact, on the day of the visit of Imran Khan to Moscow, the 'special operations' against Ukraine was launched by Russia.

The Russian side had nothing to lose in this situation though it would have preferred a visit by a representative of a more stable and steady nation with a distinct global standing at this critical time. The Russian state of mind was evident from the fact that the Russian media did not publicise the visit as much and the focus was more on the 'special operations'.

It is also understood that given the hectic activities that the government in Moscow was involved in during the time, Imran Khan and his delegation failed to get the necessary attention and hence the desired mileage from the visit.

This flawed strategy of the Pakistani government became glaringly clear with the change in government in Islamabad and decision by the new government in Pakistan to reach out to the Americans and the West.

This attitudinal shift became evident from the statement issued by General Qamar Javed Bajwa a week before Khan's removal, when the army chief called the Russian special operation an "invasion" and a "huge tragedy" that "must be stopped immediately".

In Pakistan, it is the military and intelligence, not politicians, who are considered the real power base.

Gen Bajwa in fact went on to mention that Pakistan had excellent relations with Kiev in the field of economy and security and also recalled that the Pakistanis had a cold relationship with Russia for a long time.

There has been considerable outreach to the Americans since the takeover of the Shehbaz Sharif government. Pakistani politicians too have been contacting US officials, pro-actively trying to convey the message that the Sharif government found the foreign policy narratives of the previous government faulty and that it is interested in course correction.

There is a possibility that the US would pay heed to such an approach by the new government and facilitate a degree of rapprochement that was missing thus far.

There is no doubt that with Afghanistan still in a quagmire and Pakistan's economy in shambles, the country has no other option but to depend on the US for critical support and assistance for the time being.

Contrary to the controversial visit of Imran Khan to Russia, one would most likely see a series of hectic visits by Pakistani delegations to the US in the coming days.

Pakistan's main concern is the likelihood of the situation in Afghanistan getting out of control and a fall out in terms of terror networks mushrooming in parts of the country which would undoubtedly impact the security situation in Pakistan.

Pakistan would also need support from international financial institutions and this it is aware is not possible without the blessings of the Americans.

This flip-flop on the part of Pakistan in calibrating its foreign policy indicates the hollowness of its strategic planning and also brings out a sense of desperation in Pakistan to seek a bail with external assistance.

--IANS arm/

( 922 Words)

2022-05-19-21:08:09 (IANS)


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