Pakistan Wanted: Radical Prescriptions Essay
The fiftieth anniversary of Pakistan’s independence falls in a period of perhaps the most far reaching changes in the world order. The relatively simple diplomatic configuration of the Cold War era has given place to a complex interplay of a great many forces that have made their appearance at the regional and global level. Economic and commercial interests have assumed greater relevance to national concerns, which also must accommodate the grievances of ethnic and linguistic minorities.
Their collapse would produce regional dislocation and strife, while their success would bolster stability and economic progress. Pakistan’s emergence as a state coincided with an earlier historical watershed. The end of the Second World War in 1945, virtually days after the use of the first nuclear weapons in Japan, was followed by three significant developments that shaped events over the rest of the century.
i) The need was felt for an effective international system to save the world from the scourge of war that could obliterate the planet in the age of nuclear weapons. The UN was launched in October 1945 with high hopes and aspirations.
ii) The colonial order, at least of the imperial variety, disappeared as over a hundred countries and territories gained their independence from Western control. The Sub continent was among the earliest beneficiaries of this trend, and its newly independent countries helped other subjugated lands to attain the same goals.
iii) The process of political liberation was accompanied by increasing emphasis on economic development, as formerly subject nations sought to overcome poverty and backwardness. However, this trend helped revive the hegemony of the former colonial power which now exercised paramount power through their virtual monopoly of world finance and technology. The 20th century approached its close with the majority of the former colonies now caught in a debt trap, that could be ascribed n part to an iniquitous global economic system.
All these trends had a fairly direct bearing on foreign policy. The UN system, and the regionalism it encouraged by its very operation, increased the role of multilateral diplomacy. The anti colonial wave highlighted solidarity among the former colonies, the need for which was further accentuated by the quest for development. In its first fifty years, Pakistan was involved with all these trends. Pakistan played an active role in the UN system, helped the liberation struggle of many colonies, and came to be regarded as a showpiece of economic planning and development. Had we been more fortunate in our leadership, as well as our historical legacy, we might have “taken off” economically as we were expected to do in the 1960s by leading development economists. However, that promise was not fulfilled.
Political imperatives arising from the manner of our birth as a country resulted in our region becoming one of he most conflict prone in the world. Despite UN resolutions on Kashmir, that dispute, rooted in India’s reluctance to come to terms with the partition of the Subcontinent, led to conflict and confrontation. With India constantly threatening our survival on the basis of its superior ‘strength, we felt obliged to join the Western alliance, since the option appeared to offer the only hope of receiving military and economic aid vital to our security. Later, when India managed to receive Western military aid by precipitating a conflict with China, Pakistan realized the need for l! more balanced foreign policy, rather than rely exclusively on the west. This resulted in improved relations with China and the Soviet Union. when the western powers banned the supply of weapons during the Indo-Pakistan conflict of 1965, Pakistan was able to secure arms from China for national defence.
Despite the acquisitions of arms from abroad, we still had to devote a high proportion of our own limited resources to armaments. Consequently, almost from the beginning we relied heavily on foreign assistance and loans to finance our development, a task rendered considerably harder by an exploding population. By the last &ca~ of the century, debt servicing had overtaken defence as the main charge on our national budget. Some analysis tend to describe our foreign policy over the past fifty years as largely reactive, responding most of the time to New Delhi’s initiatives in support of its hegemonic goals. While there is no denying the imperative of having to respond to India’s hostile moves, an objective analysis of the historical evolution of our diplomacy would demonstrate that Pakistan followed an independent and principled foreign policy in the pursuit of its legitimate interests.
From its early years, Pakistan became identified with the strengthening of the UN system. a Pakistani presided over the first UN conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964, and the first Conference of Non-Nuclear States was held in 1969 at Pakistan’s initiative. Pakistan backed the UN role in peace keeping from the beginning and was a major contributor of forces for this purpose over the years. so far as multilateral issues of general interest to the developing countries are concerned, Pakistan was not averse to working together with India. contentious issues found Pakistan always standing on principle, whether it was on Palestine, South Africa or other matters involving rights of subject peoples. It was sometimes conjectured that Pakistan appeared to devote a disproportionate amount of time and effort to international affairs. Looking back, the record would show that this tendency paid dividends in helping us to counter the military weight India sought to throw in support of its hegemonic goals. The last proxy war of the Cold War in Afghanistan, following the Soviet occupation of that country, enhanced our international image as we resolutely backed the struggle of the Afghan people despite threats from Moscow and New Delhi.
The very year the Soviet forces were compelled to withdraw from Afghanistan, i.e. 1989, also marked the end of the Cold War. Almost immediately, the perceptions of the Western powers appeared to under go a total transformation. With communism eliminated as the main threat to the Western world, analysts in the US and Europe began to look at the Islamic world as the next credible threat to the West’s preeminent place in the globe. A second trend was to prevent the proliferation Of sophisticated weapons which could challenge the West at a time its public opinion as pressing for cutting down its inflated military arsenals. In both these contexts, Pakistan was seen as a potential adversary, and the US imposed the provisions of the Pressler Law on Islamabad, cutting off military and economic aid, while India was seen as a power with perceptions and goals closer to those of Washington.
The US seemed inclined to go a step further, with nits that Pakistan might be dubbed “terrorist state” for helping the indigenous movement inside Kashmir. It took three years of negotiations to secure a fairer appreciation of Pakistan’s position. The Clinton administration’s stance, both on Kashmir and the unjust consequences of the Pressler Law, represents a considerable change which reflects the success of our diplomacy in part, though it also shows a more realistic perception of India’s long term policies and goals in the region. This brief assessment of our foreign policy over the past half a century places our key existing relationships in their historical context. We may now identify the main features of the emerging global order to which our foreign policy has to adjust over the coming years in a manner best suited to serve our interests.
i) Basically, while the evolution of a multiplier order is inevitable, the “unique superpower, namely the US, is engaged in active diplomacy to retain its pre eminence, by bringing into play its still unrivaled military superiority, which it demonstrated in the Gulf War of 1991, and by exerting the leverage it possesses in the economic field. Evolving a good working relationship with Washington is important, even though US policies in the post cold war period have been discriminatory. The US role can be critical on regionalisms, such as Kashmir. The basic US goals in our region are to prevent the proliferation of sophisticated weapons, and, to create conditions in which its trade and investment can flourish.
ii) The emergence of China to a greater global and regional role is executed to challenge the US hegemonic goals. While developing significant economic relations with the US, China has reacted strongly to Washington’s containment policies that are evident over Taiwan and Tibet. China has entered in to an entente with Russia to confront the US hegemony, and has made other moves to promote a multiplier world order. though China has normalized its relations with India, important differences persist as evident from its rejection of the recent Russian suggestion to associate India with the Sino-Russian strategic partnership . In South Asia, China’s role can be a balancing factor for tile smaller countries in facing up to India hegemonic ambitions.
iii) Other major players, with an increasing role in this age of economic and technological transformation, are Japan and Europe. Though supportive of the broad US agenda, they have to be cultivated and their participation and support ensured in any programme of national development.
iv) It had been expected that the role of the UN, in both the key areas of security and development would be. reinforced, and that the major powers as well as the smaller nations would find common purpose in realizing the full potential of the world body. In practice, the West, ed by the US has strengthened its hold on the UN, so that a considerably revamping and reinvigorate of the organization is now an urgent necessity.
v) The basic global trend is towards disarmament and arms limitation, to enable diversion of resources towards development. Regional cooperation has emerged as an important means of fostering progress. The other significant trend at the global level is to address problems that affect the world as a whole, including the environment, drugs, terrorism, and the exploding population. This agenda requires international cooperation at the global level.
The principle of cultivating friendly relations with all countries, which the Quaid had articulated at the time of independence must remain the foundation of our foreign policy. Within this axiomatic framework, we have to identify priorities, including stress on security, ad on development. The inclination to look to foreign sources both for arms and resources for development had been facilitated by the dynamics of the Cold War. That trend cannot be sustained in the contemporary- world environment. The very gravity of our economic predicament, and the back breaking costs involved in an arms race in the Subcontinent underscore the need for fresh thinking in foreign policy, and for better management of the economy.
The most important fact of life, over the years ahead is that we have to adjust to a world where strength is measured in terms of powers in the economic and technological fields. It is also a world where the revolution in information technology has increased awareness of successes in other parts of the world, so that’ our public opinion will be demanding much more from their rulers in terms of both development and governance. The emerging global order will affect the regional situation in South Asia profoundly. while there will be an element of continuity, with the problems and tensions of the past half century still with us, demanding solutions, there will also be change in the context of the global trends.
One must pay special attention to developments peculiar to the Subcontinent. These include some negative trends, such as the upsurge of religious extremism, specially in India, where the largest political party seeks to impose Hindu culture through the concept ofHindutva, in an age when tolerance and human rights are the order of the day. India’s unrelenting. pursuit of hegemony prevents the establishment of an environment of trust and confidence that is an essential pre-requisite for regional cooperation. On the positive side are a realization of the need for dialogue among recently elected governments, and of comprehensive measures to fight poverty.
As we start the second half century of independence there are challenges as well as opportunities. Amid growing realization of the importance of an economic revival, our foreign policy must focus on the challenges facing us, and stress the multilateral dimension of diplomacy. However, with an indigenous revolt against India’s forcible occupation in progress in Kashmir that is taking a heavy toll of lives, the efforts of newly elected governments cannot get far, particularly as our public opinion will not support any surrender of principle for the sake of facilitating cooperation.
While persisting in the recently started dialogue with India, we can not afford to be oblivious of New Delhi’s hegemonic goals, to be achieved through the acquisition of overwhelming military superiority via the nuclear and missile path. No less important than military deterrence would be an active diplomacy to strengthen existing friendships and forge new ones to reinforce our security. The existing direction of our foreign policy shows pragmatism combined with respect for principles that must determine interstate relations. We should persist in seeking the understanding and support of major powers, of which the US and China are the most important. Russia, despite its current preoccupation with domestic problems, has a significant potential to influence our neighbourhood, and special efforts are needed to improve our relations with that former superpower. Of course we must also keep in view the role which the economic giants, namely Japan and Europe, can play in our economic resurgence.
Within the regional context, primacy must go to our neighbours. There are special features associated with our relations with each: India constitutes the main threat, China is our most reliable friend while Iran has also been traditionally friendly though our perceptions have diverged over the strife inside Afghanistan where the restoration of peace is equally important for both. Then there are our brothers in faith H\ W,st and Central Asia. Our bilateral relations will acquire greater content if we try harder to improve the working of SAARC and ECO and keep in mind the potential of larger groupings such as the OIC at the ideological plane and the up and coming Indian Ocean Rim grouping, on the geographical one. This underscores the role of multilateral diplomacy which will become even more important, both to facilitate our national development, and to pursue the global agenda of issues such as the environment, drugs, terrorism etc
Where our performance and coordination have to be improved significantly compared to the past fifty years is in the sphere of the formulation and conduct of foreign policy. there has been excessive adhocism with the formulation of foreign policy handled by a variety of organizations at different times. There has been a tendency for the responsibility for determining the policies in various spheres, such as economic, commercial, information and defence being assumed by the ministries concerned, often with inadequate coordination with the Foreign Ministry. Though the Foreign Service has performed well, on the whole. its quality has deteriorated owing to lateral entry and failure to attract the best talent with the passage of time. A major lacuna has been the lack of put form academics and specialists. even though Area Study Centres were set up three decades ago to develop exercise in·various regions.
A tradition has yet to develop for substantive inputs into the formulation of foreign policy through regular and informed debates within the legislatures. which presupposes the effective functioning of foreign Affairs committees in both the houses of the parliament. The most important changes need to be introduced in the apparatus of diplomacy. Steps have to be taken to attract our brightest young men and women to the diplomatic career, After imparting appropriate training, their advancement in he Foreign Service should be on the basis of merit and performance, with political patronage eliminated as far as possible. The most sensitive ambassadorial posts should be reserved for career diplomats.
For a country with our security challenges and ideological links, foreign policy is not only the first line of defence, but also the main vehicle for economic interaction with the rest of the world. In the coming years of rapid changes, we must encourage research an innovation on the one hand, and the widest possible participation of all elements of our society in this vital sphere on the other. The legislature, the professionals, the media and our public opinion at large should be kept abreast of the kaleidoscopic changes which will continue to occur at a bewildering pace.