Not too long ago, Pakistan commemorated its 74th Independence Day with immense fervor and enthusiasm. Needless to say, Independence Day carries with it a lot of historical significance for Pakistan; the day denotes the birth of Pakistan as an independent and sovereign state, in the aftermath of a long-fought freedom struggle against British colonialism in the subcontinent. Additionally, the day also prompts the Pakistani nation and its leadership to collectively acknowledge and reflect upon Pakistan’s domestic as well as international accomplishments. One such area, where Pakistan has displayed immense potential for growth and engagement is its foreign policy front. In the last seventy-three years, Pakistan has fostered long-lasting friendships and has simultaneously, advocated for peace, justice and cooperation on multiple regional and international forums.
While addressing the people of USA in 1948, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah explained Pakistan’s foreign policy framework by stating that, “Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation.” Although Pakistan’s foreign policy has varied over the course of history, the guiding principles upon which these policies and diplomatic engagements were grounded still remain unfaltered.
These very principles have been the foundation for Pakistan’s stances on international disputes such as those of Jammu & Kashmir and Palestine. Pakistan’s continuous efforts to rally international support and call for action against the oppression and unfair treatment of the Kashmiri and Palestinian people, is a testament to Pakistan’s commitment to upholding international justice. In response to India’s recent revocation of the special status of Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and imposition of a strict lockdown, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan sought peaceful means to address the issue by highlighting the plight of Kashmiri people and condemning India’s actions at the 74th UNGA session. Moreover, in the wake of UAE’s decision to recognize the state of Israel, Imran Khan has categorically reiterated Pakistan’s support for Palestine and has refused to recognize Israel until Palestinian statehood is guaranteed.
Pakistan has also strived to promote peace and stability within the South Asian region and beyond. In the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan became actively involved in the US-led War on Terror and made enormous contributions to fight the menace of terrorism at the cost of enormous human, socio-economic and infrastructure losses. Pakistan’s peace efforts, however, are not limited to it’s own boundaries. Pakistan has made tremendous contributions to UN peacekeeping missions in various conflict zones such as Congo, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bosnia and Yemen. In fact, Pakistan has the fifth-largest peacekeeping unit, which has recently become more gender inclusive through the deployment of the first-ever female peacekeeping team in Congo.
Economic diplomacy has been another prominent feature of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Over the years, Pakistan has strengthened its economic ties with several countries but perhaps the biggest economic project Pakistan is currently undertaking is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with China. CPEC is China’s flagship project – part of the overarching Belt and Road Initiative initially announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 – worth $62 billion that aims to enhance regional connectivity in the region and beyond. The project entails setting up of various energy, transport and economic projects that can prove to be a game changer for Pakistan’s economic as well as geostrategic interests in the region.
Additionally, as of 2019, Pakistan has entered into free trade agreements with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Meanwhile, Pakistan has been engaging in bilateral trade with major powers like United States, China, United Kingdom and Germany. Overseas Pakistani’s, who constitute as the sixth largest diaspora globally, have also contributed to Pakistan’s national economy greatly as they send foreign exchange remittances to Pakistan. Centered mostly in United Kingdom and the Middle East, this widespread Pakistani diaspora helps create people to people linkages as well.
Lastly, but certainly not least, Pakistan’s foreign policy has been centered upon maintaining friendly relations with countries all over the world. Upon assuming office in August 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan offered an olive branch to India to improve bilateral ties. China and Pakistan’s camaraderie is a testament to the “All-Weather Friendship” that both countries enjoy. Pakistan also takes pride in having close brotherly ties with Turkey. Both Muslim countries have cooperated with one another on various economic, cultural and military projects. In addition, Pakistan is also making efforts to reorient itself in Asia by engaging with countries like Malaysia and Bangladesh.
For a country like Pakistan, whose survival was at stake after independence due to lack of resources and threats arising from it’s neighboring countries, it has progressed leaps and bounds to establish itself as a dynamic polity in the international comity of nations. Pakistan Zindabad!