Friends of Pakistan

Foreign relations of Pakistan

Written by arzepak

Pakistan is the second largest Muslim-majority country in terms of population (after Indonesia[1]) and its status as a declared nuclear power, being the only Islamic nation to have that status, plays a part in its international role.

Pakistan has a fiercely independent foreign policy, especially when it comes to issues such as development of nuclear weapons, construction of nuclear reactors, foreign military purchases and other issues that are vital to its national interests. On the other hand, Pakistan’s economy is rather integrated into the world with strong ties to the EU and economic aliances and agreements with many other Asian nations. Pakistan has a strategic geo-political location at the corridor of world major maritime oil supply lines, and has close proximity to the resource and oil rich central Asian countries. Pakistan is an important member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), is ranked by the US as a major non-NATO ally in the war against terrorism, and has a highly disciplined and professional military.

The foreign policy of Pakistan sets out in the way it interacts with foreign nations and to determine its standard of interactions for its organizations, corporations and individual citizens.[2][3] Backed by the semi-agricultural and semi-industrialized economy, Pakistan is the 42nd largest (nominal GDP) and 25th largest (purchasing power) economic power in the world, with a defence budget of $6.98 billion, which accounts for approximately ~0.37% of global military spending. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan is the official charged with state-to-state diplomacy, although the Prime ministermaintains an ultimate authority over foreign policy.[2] The state foreign policy includes defining the national interest, as well as the economic interest and strategies chosen both to safeguard that and to achieve its policy goals.[2] Following the general election held on May 2013, Tariq Fatimi and NSA Sartaj Aziz are designated as advisers to the Prime Ministeron foreign and strategic policies.[4][5]

Historical overview[edit]

Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan’s foreign policy has encompassed difficult relations with the neighbouring Soviet Union (USSR) who maintained a close military and ideological interaction with the neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan (in the West) and India (in East) as well as East Pakistan.[6] During most of 1947–1991, the USSR support was given to India; especially on the core-issue of Kashmir, over which it has fought three wars.[6] During the 1960s, Pakistan’s relations with East Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan have also been extremely difficult due to the latter’s contest over the Durand Line. The foreign relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia and China remains extremely important and based on the extensive cooperation in national security and economical interests in the Persian Gulf and wide-ranging bilateral relations with the United States and other Western countries. With the growing influence of USSR in the region, Pakistan cemented close security relations with China in Asia and Poland in Europe during most of the Cold War. While Pakistan’s had “on-off relations” with the United States, Pakistan assisted President Nixon reapproach with China and other East Asian countries.

In 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of the state of Pakistan, clearly described the principles and objectives of Pakistan’s foreign policy in a broadcast message, which is featured prominently in a quotation on the homepage of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: “The foundation of our foreign policy is friendship with all nations across the globe.”[7]

Pakistan-United States relations[edit]

The United States has played an important role in the young history of Pakistan, being one of the first countries to recognize their independence on 14 August 1947.[8] The relationship between the two countries went through varying levels of friendliness, but Pakistan consistently found themselves on the United States side of issues faced during the Cold War.[9] Pakistan served as a geostrategic position for United States military bases during the Cold War since it bordered the Soviet Union and China.[10] These positive relations would fall apart following successful cooperation in fighting the Soviet Union’s influence in Central Asia and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union. ln reaction to Pakistan’s new nuclear capacity, the United States would pass the Pressler Amendment approving sanctions against Pakistan,[11] but relations would restrengthen following 9/11 with Pakistan’s warm response following the tragedy. Aid would be given to Pakistan for the first time again in 2002, and the 2000s saw an extension of this friendly relationship.

As the War on Terror continued to linger, the United States and Pakistan would disagree on strategies while also accusing each other of various things. This dynamic would reach a head following a few incidents highlighted by the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.[12] While these incidents wore down the trust between the two nations, the two would continue to share a healthy relationship. Although the two countries do not view each other favorably in polls, the two governments share an important relationship featuring multiple types of aid to Pakistan, important military cooperation and collaboration, and a strategic ally in Central Asia for the United States[12] The United States and Pakistan’s relationship persists of promoting trade and regional economic cooperation, this type of relationship is beneficial for both countries and gives incentive for continuing friendly relations.[13] U.S. also has concerns regarding Pakistan include regional and global terrorism; Afghan stability; democratization and human rights protection; the ongoing Kashmir problem and Pakistan-India tensions; and economic development.[14]

Muslim world[edit]

After Independence, Pakistan vigorously pursued bilateral relations with other Muslim countries[15] and made a wholehearted bid for leadership of the Muslim world, or at least for leadership in achieving its unity.[16] The Ali brothers had sought to project Pakistan as the natural leader of the Islamic world, in large part due to its large manpower and military strength.[17] A top-ranking Muslim League leader, Khaliquzzaman, declared that Pakistan would bring together all Muslim countries into Islamistan – a pan-Islamic entity.[18] Such developments (alongside Pakistan’s creation) did not get American approval and British Prime Minister Clement Attlee voiced international opinion at the time by stating that he wished that India and Pakistan would re-unite.[19] Since most of the Arab world was undergoing a nationalist awakening at the time, there was little attraction to Pakistan’s Pan-Islamic aspirations.[20] Some of the Arab countries saw the ‘Islamistan’ project as a Pakistani attempt to dominate other Muslim states.[21]

Pakistan vigorously championed the right of self-determination for Muslims around the world. Pakistan’s efforts for the independence movements of Indonesia, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Eritrea were significant and initially led to close ties between these countries and Pakistan.[22] However, Pakistan also masterminded an attack on the Afghan city of Jalalabad during the Afghan Civil War to establish an Islamic government there. Pakistan had wished to forment an ‘Islamic Revolution’ which would transcend national borders covering Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.[23]

On the other hand, Pakistan’s relations with Iran have been strained at times due to sectarian tensions.[24] Iran and Saudi Arabia used Pakistan as a battleground for their proxy sectarian war and by the 1990s, Pakistan’s support for the Sunni Taliban organisation in Afghanistan became a problem for Shia Iran which opposed a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.[25] Tensions between Iran and Pakistan intensified in 1998, when Iran accused Pakistan of war crimes as Pakistani warplanes bombarded Afghanistan’s last Shia stronghold in support of the Taliban.

Major alliances[edit]

Pakistan was a member of the Commonwealth from 1947 to 1956 under the name ‘Dominion of Pakistan‘. From 1956 to 1972, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was a Commonwealth republic, when it was withdrawn in protest at the Commonwealth’s support of East Pakistan‘s secession and Bangladesh‘s independence. In 1989, Pakistan regained its status as a Commonwealth republic, which remains the case, despite Pakistan’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations between 1999 and 2008.[29][30]

Major rivalries[edit]

Since 1947, Pakistan’s relations have been difficult with regional neighbors, India over the geopolitical issues. In fact, India and Pakistan have fought three conventional warsthroughout the 20th century over the issue of Kashmir.[31] There has been attempts to unite the countries but since 1940, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim League had demanded an independent Pakistan, whose Muslims would have their own government rather than remaining subordinate to India’s Hindu majority.[32] There are many sources of tension between the two countries but the issues over the absence of trade and normal discourse, size disparities, and three geostrategic issues: Kashmir, water, and the Siachen Glacier, are the biggest.[33] The continuing dispute over the status of Kashmir inflames opinions in both nations and makes friendly relations difficult. In the 1960s, the problems over the Durand Line escalated with Afghanistan which led to open hostilities in the 1970s. Pakistan is the leading member of the Coffee Club to oppose Indian membership in the United Nations Security Council.

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