Pakistan's Foreign Policy: Predicaments and Perspectives - An Analysis

20 Aug, 1999    ·   251

Dr. Subash Kapila says an unrestrained Pakistan is likely to end up as a 'rogue state' beyond the pale of American or Chinese control in the long run

Pakistan's foreign policy successes so far resulted from a single point agenda namely, courting the United States and China for strategic gains that would be discomfiting and embarrassing to India strategically. Both the United States and China, so far, for their respective reasons, found Pakistan fitting into their designs to limit India's strategic postures aimed at emergence as a notable power. Post-Kargil and for some time preceding it, both the United Stated and China, again for their respective reasons, have been re-assessing their South Asian policies with an accent on improving ties with India. Pakistan today, because of these developments is faced with foreign policy predicaments not faced hithertofore. This finds reflection in the writings of Pakistan's analysts, both political and strategic.

Pakistan's predicaments with United States arise from loss of its strategic 'front line' status in US policy, differences over Afghanistan, the growing US concern of emergence of Islamic fundamentalist forces in Pakistan's polity and Pakistan's emergence as a haven for Pan-Islamic militant groups. Pakistan therefore, is also fast losing its image of a moderate Islamic states in US perceptions. The more galling predicament for Pakistan is the growing American appreciation of India's potential as a strategic stabilizer in the region, a vast market for US investment and a politically stable democracy. US stance during the Kargil conflict, too early to be termed as shifts in US policy, should carry ominous portends for Pakistan.

Pakistan predicaments with China could be viewed as of more recent origin. China till recently had built up Pakistan as a nuclear weapons and ballistic missile military power so that it could be at parity with India. China's concerns with Pakistan, now arise from the emergence of Pan-Islamic fundamentalist forces interference's in China's Xinjiang region and also their strength in Pakistani domestic politics. Pakistanis predicaments with China would be discomfiting in terms of changed Chinese attitude on the Kashmir issue and China's insistence to solve Kashmir by peaceful means through BI-lateral dialogues. This tide there was an absence of Chinese     to India.

Pakistan's predicaments also arise with the OIC countries who gradually are shifting away from strong pro-Pak stances on Indo-Pak issues. OIC countries, many of them monarchical, cannot be expected to view kindly the growing Taliban type of Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan.

Prospectively speaking, Pakistan has very limited space in enlarging or refurbishing the Pak-US relationship. The arises from the deep domestic contradictions within Pakistan between the traditional anti-US attitudes of the Pakistani masses and the pro-US relations get stronger. Pakistan is limited in coming out with any spectacular to please the United states. At best Pak-US relationship may continue with uneasy footnotes.

China only offers hope to Pakistani foreign policy planners in terms of forward movement out of its present predicaments. Pakistan analysts believe that in the changed global and regional strategic environment, a long range "Sino-Pak Mutual Friendship and Assistance Treaty" offering strategic guarantees and counter-vailing power against India would serve Pakistan's national interests. They believe that China, too, would have no other option in South Asia keeping the growing Indo-US relations, including strategic dialogues. However, these Pakistani analysts, are realistic enough to perceive that China would agree that this Treaty excludes from its ambit the issue of Kashmir. Not that China is mindful of Indian sensitivities but because of the dangers of the self-determination principle rebounding on China. China's changed tenor on the Kargil issue could add here to Pakistani jitters.

In the context of Pakistan's current foreign policy predicaments the best logical option would be to improve relations with India, if for nothing else, but to fall in line with the South Asian policies of its two major patrons i.e. USA and China. Pakistani generals and Islamic fundamentalists however, are unlikely to agree to changing the cornerstones of Pak foreign policy namely its anti-India postures centering on Kashmir, state sponsored terrorism on India's peripheries and the ISI penetration of other parts of India to expend Islamic fundamentalism. the growing nexus of the Pak military hierarchy and Islamic fundamentalists is not only a danger for India but also for USA and China. Pak foreign policies can only be changed by the use if the leverages that both USA and China have over Pakistan in the interests of a peaceful South Asia. Failing this, an unrestrained Pakistan is likely to end up as a 'rogue state' beyond the pale of American or Chinese control in the long run.