The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one of the most important branches of government, indicated by its name; it administers how our republic formally engages with and interacts with other nations of the world on a political platform and in this newfound era of globalisation the importance of a well-planned, flexible and pragmatic foreign policy cannot be stressed enough. Pakistani foreign policy has always been fiercely independent; the fact that we have angered every major political player on the world map since 1947 in one significant way or another is concrete evidence of this assertion, however being independent alone does not suffice and with great angst and frustrating disappointment it must be said that in many respects our approach to dealing with the rest of the world has been either entirely inadequate or contains some mistakes of unpardonable magnitude that must never be repeated again if we wish to obtain what is best for our republic.
The single dominant characteristic of our foreign policy as well as the approach of most Pakistani individuals towards foreign affairs in general, is filled to the brim in most instances , best expressed in Urdu is, “Beqar ki dushamanian or fazool ki hamdardian” (Useless hostility and nonsensical sympathies). Indeed in Pakistan our staple approach is to pretend that absolutely any country that either possesses a Muslim majority or is China is the perfect best friend whom we have to support in every conceivable way and nothing bad may ever come from it and of course the baddies, mainly India, and to a lesser degree Israel and sometimes the US or the west in general are the evil, neo-colonial, imperialistic enemies with whom a bitter conflict of annihilation is inevitable. Anyone who has ever taken delight from indulging in the history of political entities and their relationships or is familiar with the methodology used to craft foreign policy in outside nations in contemporary times, those of the west and China in particular, will not hesitate to express the sheer hair pulling frustration that one inevitably feels upon examining the long list of idiocrasies littering our foreign policy since the nation’s inception.
The single best example that highlights the magnitude of our concern is the fact that our Pakistan is the only nation upon the face of this earth that does not recognise the sovereign republic of Armenia, a small Caucasian country bordering Azerbaijan. And the reason our state has committed to this act of exceptional stupidity is because Azerbaijan has a territorial dispute with Armenia known as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that’s not too dissimilar to our own Kashmir conflict in several ways and because the Azeris have a dispute with them: Pakistan has committed all of its resources and aims to attacking Armenia in every single possible way diplomatically, even though Azerbaijan itself has neither requested her allies to not recognise Armenia nor does Azerbaijan itself not recognise Armenia. This is the equivalent of Saudi Arabia not recognising the existence of India in solidarity with Pakistan, something the Saudis would never do nor should they ever be expected to do given they are not victims of chronic idiocy in this regard.
Of course our foreign policy has had its many achievements that brought some benefit to the nation and it would be very inaccurate to characterise our government’s ministry of foreign affairs as a complete failure. However, those accomplishments are mostly irrelevant in this discourse as the good elements of any entity do not warrant much attention as they are already of desirable characteristic. It is the inadequacies, imperfections and everything that is problematic that necessitates our undivided and cautious absorption. Constructive criticism of governmental behaviour is the duty of all Pakistanis, especially the nationalists and patriots as people of our ideological outlook claim to value what is the best for the country the most.
What the people of Pakistan and the government need to recognise and act upon while keeping in mind, is that international relations are not built upon the foundations of love, brotherhood, friendship, shared demographic characteristics, humanity or any similar notion. It is built by shared political, economic and social interests and goals and not more, unless the participating parties are of an irrational sort comparable to our own. Human beings have friends, relationships and enmities based on petty or no real reasons, political entities of all sorts whether nation states or political parties, at least those that are successful, do not. States and governments have political interests, alliances that exist purely as a result of some circumstance and enmities that also exist purely as a result of some circumstance. The US did not support, arm and fund the Mujahedeen during the Soviet-Afghan war of the eighties out of love for the Afghan people, commitment to freeing Muslim land from the “Godless pagans” or anything of the sort. They did what they did only as a consequence of opportunism and now they are combating this same entity they played a crucial role in constructing as the circumstances have changed and require different actions.
In the same manner exist all of Pakistan’s alliances with outside nations. The countries who support our stance on the Kashmir dispute do not do so because they believe it belongs to us, they do so as a gesture so that we may reciprocate in kind in any matter in which they require our support. China, Turkey and Azerbaijan for example will not hesitate to reverse their stances on Kashmir if they suddenly discover that there is more benefit to them from supporting India in the dispute in place of us. A possibility we must never pretend does not exist… We must also avoid supporting the losing party in any struggle or at the very least not antagonise any one nation endlessly. The Pakistani role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been of such character, our refusal to recognise Israel as a political entity that undeniably exists has significant repercussions that in addition to causing us harm directly as world opinion turns against us and the Israelis maneuver in opposition to us in international affairs is also that it makes it much more difficult for Pakistan to act as a mediator in the dispute, influencing the actions of the Palestinians and negotiating with Tel Aviv to reach favourable compromises and developments is the ideal position for us.
It is time that Pakistan prioritised its own interests above and before anything else in its dealings with the rest of the world. It matters not what great affliction is inflicted upon the Saudis, the Iranians, the Afghans or the people of the Western world; our concern remains our own wellbeing and the pursuit of what’s beneficial to us and to our national interests in the long term. Never again, must the state interfere in any foreign issue or conflict, of whatever magnitude, that does concern Pakistani interests at all and never must the government commit the unforgivable act of forfeiting the interests of the Pakistanis in order to avoid offending or pleasing any other nation. The people we put in charge of our republic must always be compelled in act in only a manner that produces benefit for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
We will forever be the slave of emotional trivialities and uselessly vague concepts of self-righteousness until a heavy dose of Machiavellianism and political realism is administered to the foreign ministry of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that will, to the disappointment of those who benefit from our political ignorance and those who perpetuate the above mentioned ailments, lead the republic into adopting a more rational, amoral and analytical approach to determining the absolute best course of action with respect to any issues concerning foreign policy, established by an objective comparison of the potential benefits and costs of any action.
“…foreign policy is a matter of costs and benefits, not theology.” ― Fareed Zakaria