Pakistan’s Foreign Policy; A Dreadful Expedition

Haroon Khalid Wani

Diplomacy and foreign policy are central features of international politics. As Machiavelli, the father of modern diplomacy believes that the world of policy making is different from the world of emotions so there is a need to revisit issues of contemporary international politics, with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and decisional dynamics underpinning foreign policy and diplomacy.

Pakistan, with all her weaknesses and shortcomings is a middle level regional power with mammoth military strength and arsenal. Gaining independence from British imperialism in what was one of the most mishandled transfers of power in 20th century.

Opening eyes as a nation in a bi-polar world was quite unfortunate for an indecisive Pakistan which right after independence oversaw the first war with neighboring India over the Kashmir region. In 1949, the then Indian Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru paid the state visit to the United States, which eventually led the Pakistan’s government to cement relations with the Soviet Union. Finally on 3 June 1949, Soviet Union sent an invitation to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan which came as a surprise to the United States. With India’s strict commitment towards the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) the United States got influenced to send an invitation to Pakistan’s maiden Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1950. At home front, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was highly criticized by the left-wing sphere who charged the Prime Minister for ignoring the Soviet Union’s invitation. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s state visit and alignment towards the United States became a pivot in Pakistan’s foreign policy.

After the cold war period, Pakistan has been in the face of diverse challenges. No doubt, the relative stability and predictability of that era has disappeared and a large number of regional and global alignments have lost significance as well. Old ties and linkages are under stress and almost every state is now reviewing the parameters of its foreign policy. Hence the post Cold War era can be described as New World Order, as the security of small states has become more challenging than ever before. It has been a dilemma of Pakistan that whenever in history, the dictators ruled this country, it was the US administration which found itself easy as the democratic governments relatively prefer to build up relations on mutual basis. From the last few years, the foreign policy of Pakistan has been more directionless and to some extent, it has remained reactive too. The country is being run without any national security policy in face of many imposing challenges until recently when the internal security problems dominated the discussions in the corridors of government and barracks.

If we deeply have a look at the course of Pakistan’s foreign policy, it would become evident that this country has been affected by four issues

  1. Pursuing the security and survival of this country as an independent state
  2. Legacy of country’s conflict and tension ridden relationship with India which in fact constitute the center point of Pakistan’s foreign policy, owing to the geo-political environment
  3. Too much dependence on the West for economic, political and military endurance
  4. Country’s entire solidarity with the Muslim world and unflinching support to the Muslim Cause

Focusing on the first two points it is important to know that Pakistan inherited two major issues of Afghanistan and Kashmir from British India. Mishandling both these issues has led to foreign policy disasters for Pakistan incurring huge economic and reputational losses not just for successive governments but millions of Pakistanis and the diaspora.

If we revisit the pages of history related to the Kashmir crisis we will ascertain that it is quite different from what we study and have inherited.  The Treaty of Amritsar marked the beginning of Dogra rule in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Further expansions in the 19th century, including the assimilation of the Principality of Gilgit and the emirates of Hunza and Nagar under the reigns of Maharajas Partab Singh and Ranbir Singh would grow the territory of the empire to 222,870 sq km of Himalayan lands and the state now comprised of Jammu, Ladakh, Kargil and the Kashmir valley. Kashmiris were never interested in Pakistan and none of the leaders of Pakistan movement was a Kashmiri and they were rather interested in their own freedom as an independent state for which they started their indigenous movement in 1931after the Srinagar Central Jail massacre incident, a movement which was hijacked after the partition due to General Gracey’s and Mountbatten’s malicious intentions. With this Pakistan foreign policy disaster started by poking her nose in a still lingering affair it had nothing to do with making the British divide-and-rule policy a reality. Even to this date Pakistan is relying on a dummy UN resolution which brings no hope and on the other hand the Kashmiri youth have been made indecisive and directionless thus making Kashmir the most problematic area in the entire region.

It is interested to know that Maharaja Hari Singh was hostile towards the Indian National Congress, in part because of the close friendship between Kashmiri political activist and socialist Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru. He also opposed the Muslim League and its members’ communalist outlook illustrated in their two-nation theory. So, when the Pashtun tribesmen invaded Kashmir, Hari Singh appealed to India for help although the Indian Prime Minister Nehru was ready to send troops, the Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, advised the Maharaja to accede to India before India would send its troops. Hence, considering the emergent situation, the Maharaja signed an Instrument of Accession to the Dominion of India in sheer misery because he always wanted to stay independent. Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947, acceding the whole of his princely state (including Jammu, Kashmir, Northern Areas, Ladakh, Trans-Karakoram Tract and Aksai Chin) to the Dominion of India. These events triggered the first formal Indo-Pakistan War. General Gracey and Lord Mountbatten used their military officers Major. Brown and Captain Mirza Hassan who captured Gilgit with the help of Gilgit scouts. Mirza Hassan who was bestowed Military cross for services in Burma deceived British regime by supporting Gilgit’s accession to Pakistan never got his title rebuked but was instead given huge lands in Gilgit and Pakistan by the Gracey led administration. The Maharaja was deceived and Gilgit was acceded to Pakistan. In this way, Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan in order to generate a lasting bone of contention between the two countries. India on the other hand lost access to Russia and the earlier took the matter to the United Nations with Mountbatten’s consent which passed a resolution to hold a plebiscite in the valley, something which has never happened.

If we try concluding the entire situation we will realize that Kashmir was an issue created by the British and spoiled by the establishment in Pakistan. The Maharaja was never interested in India and might have settled something with Pakistan on the dialogue table if Pakistani mujahideen had not interfered. It is also very interesting to know that the state of Junagadh that had Hindu majority but was led by a Moslem ruler acceded to Pakistan but annexed by force to India in 1948 on the very fact that it’s going with Pakistan is against two-nation theory. If that theory was the basis for dividing the sub-continent then British would have taken care of Kashmir without any issue and there was no point of taking the matter to the UN. Hence the independence of GB and Azad Jammu and Kashmir was pre-planned. For over six decades the issue has been lingering over the heads of millions of south Asians who could have used their potential otherwise in improving their economy and society.

The way Pakistan has followed the Kashmir issue has been ever more non-professional. Only Kashmir valley and not Ladakh or Jammu has a Muslim majority population and Pakistan supports freedom struggles only in the Kashmir valley. Even the All parties Hurriyet conference has no representation from Ladakh and Jammu which clearly speaks of the shallow approach to the problem. Secondly, Jammu and Kashmir has been made the integral part of India but Pakistani administered Kashmir and the area of Gilgit Baltistan still has no presence in the Pakistani legislature and administrative affairs. The unconditional loyalties of people living in Pakistani Kashmir and northern areas are not eternal and must be resolved or at least addressed before it’s too late.

The other foreign policy disaster Pakistan has committed is Afghanistan, again inherited by the Colonial British India. The Pashtuns never accepted British sovereignty and the tribal Pashtuns east of the Durand line were mostly paid British agents. The Afghans on the other side considered Durand line a temporary agreed upon border and not an actual border created a lot of chaos for the new nation of Pakistan. Pakistan took the matter to the United Nations where the world powers supported Pakistan’s stance of considering Durand line as the actual border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Afghan government and the tribes never accepted this considering it a crack on Pashtun brethren and continued their hostilities towards Pakistan. Pakistan’s continuous support of sponsoring, funding and arming the non-state actors in Afghanistan has caused havoc in Pakistan by incurring economic and social losses. Peace was destroyed due to the influx of millions of Afghan refugees into Pakistan, opium culture, and public use of arms and destruction of the very Pakistani social fabric.

Now in 2015, decades and decades after the Kashmir conflict started and the Afghan crisis initiated Pakistan is still at the crossroads unable to draw conclusions at all levels of the state. The irony of the fact is that citizens on the street can easily realize that blindly following the US policies by governments in common and military establishment in particular has led to foreign policy disasters and taken us to a point where the green passport has lost respect and dignity and where Pakistani diaspora faces continuous indignation over state policies. Issue of Kashmir and Afghanistan have generated plethora of internal issues especially related to economy and foreign investment, decadence of whom has left no option for our leadership other than to look at US for assistance. Like other players in the region especially India and Iran, Pakistan has never been nonaligned and always looked at the US for military, economic and infrastructure support; something that should be called a dangerous friendship. The current Afghan crisis after 9/11 requires attention by the regional powers especially Russia and China but it is due to Pakistan’s foreign policy failures that India has captured the vacuum in Afghanistan to forge relations she could not have built otherwise.

Unfortunately, Pakistani leadership is still looking at the US for solutions. It is like the sheep complaining to the Lion that his club is hostile toward the flock of sheep and requesting the lion to help resolving the issue. Pakistani premier has a useless and fruitless tour of the US where he learnt lessons on effective governance from his US masters. Not ending on that, it is just now that the Pakistani Army Chief, the most powerful man in the country by all means is touring the US which according to the State department has been scheduled on his own request and the nation waits to see no appreciations and handshakes but results and solutions to the problems which this society has been facing as a result of state actions. Perhaps this is the time we as a nation should realize that we should have to learn from history and not to repeat the grave mistakes which have brought Pakistan to a level where the nation has perpetually reached to a point of nervous breakdown.

The contributor is the Secretary General of Gilgit-Baltitan Qaumi Movement. 

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