Pakistan's Foreign Policy 1947-2005: A Concise History
Sitakanta Mishra ·       

Alliances, counter-alliances, diplomatic maneuvers, and so on are common in international relations practice. The nuances of power politics - global and regional - always impinge on national leaders; civilizaitonal legacy is no doubt an asset for the conduct of diplomacy. But, for a nascent state, constructing the national identity is a Herculean task. Such is the case of Pakistan. However, Pakistan is a success as it "successfully reversed direction and reverted to its founding fathers' vision of a moderate liberal and progressive Islamic polity" (p.303) in the post-1990s proclaims Abdul Sattar the former Pakistani Foreign Minister in his book Pakistan's Foreign Policy.

The author has tried to recapitulate his forty years of diplomatic experience to pass on his knowledge to future generations. However, an objective analysis of his arguments reveals that the author is not able to think outside the box. The India-fixation is visible throughout and there is hardly any page in the entire 23 chapters of this book where the word "India" does not occur. In that sense it would have been better if the title of the book was changed to "Pakistan-India Relations," instead of Pakistan's Foreign Policy.

The author has rightly noted that the foreign policy discourse is not uni-dimensional, concerned with only its political aspects. (p. xii) But his assertion that Pakistani foreign policy is dominated mainly by security and developmental concerns and the need of foreign assistance is only partially true, and the author has completely ignored the role of domestic politics and the military in the foreign policy decision-making of Pakistan, which are its major determinants.

Starting with a modest beginning, Pakistan's foreign policy was, apparently, guided by the idealistic visions of its founding fathers - friendship and goodwill towards all nations; without narrow and special commitments and prejudices. However, the shadow of pre- and post-Partition Indo-Pak discourse has never allowed Islamabad to go beyond the "parity game" in its foreign policy. Be it, its relation with the major powers or its affinity with the Islamic world, the India syndrome has always haunted it., which has propelled Pakistan to seek an external balancer to neutralize New Delhi, its Muslim world policy framework and its efforts to convince Washington that its economic-security concerns are not simply a manifestation of its search for parity with India. The author's account of Pakistan-US relations convincingly erodes the conventional wisdom that Pakistan can be a trusted ally of Washington. During the first three decades the US and other major powers could never overcome their concerns with India while dealing with Pakistan. It is clearly from the author's account that the Pakistan-US courtship is circumstantial and driven by US strategic requirements, but has costs for Pakistan. Sino-Pakistan relations in comparison are founded on mutual interests and remain an all-weather partnership.

In search of parity and identity during the first three decades of its independence, Pakistan landed itself in a vicious circle of regional and international power games. Its bitter relations with India on water sharing and boundary disputes led to four wars and finally led to the Cold War coming to its doorsteps landing Pakistan in a trap. Though the Cold War ended with Pakistan in the victorious bloc, the flip-side of jihad and the country's nuclear tests in 1998 led it into a phase of international isolation and ostracism hyped by India's propaganda that Pakistan was a terrorist state (Chapter 18)

However, the 9/11 incident brought Pakistan's importance again to the forefront. Islamabad's "Yes-but" policy after 9/11 gave Pakistan the leverage to rebuild its shattered economy and reputation. In the author's view the "new directions and dynamism in foreign policy in recent years have helped pull Pakistan out of isolation into international mainstream" (p. 302) which simply reflects the "adjustments to the imperatives of the changing global and regional environment (p. 294)."

The author has incorporated two chapters - "Terrorism" and "The UN and International Cooperation" (Chapters 20 and 22) where he asserts that Islam has been demonized and "supplanted in place of communism as the new threat to the West" (p. 258). But his comparison of Bhagat Singh with the terrorists who attacked the Indian Parliament in 2001 is too exaggerated. If the latter were freedom fighters, what about the militants in Sindh and Balochistan? The author's views on Kashmir and East Pakistan also are self-contradictory. If it is Pakistan's moral duty to support the Kashmir separatist movement, is it not India's moral duty to extend sympathy and support to self determination causes in its neighbourhood?

In conclusion, the author has highlighted Pakistan's resolve to participate in "efforts to propel the world towards a better future than the past," and to aspire to "a productive, fulfilling and respectable place in the world community." This volume is definitely an important addition to the existing literature.