Table of Contents
Foreign Policy since 1947:
Since Pakistan could not compete militarily with India, it had to “borrow” power from other sources.
This meant a close relationship with Britain, then an extended alliance with the United States, and subsequently a remarkable military tie with China. The latter was especially important because China, unlike the British and the Americans, was also interested in balancing Indian power.
The United States ceased being Pakistan’s most important foreign ally after the 1971 debacle. From that point on, Pakistan began to entertain nonalignment and flirt with China and a number of other states.
The first and second Afghan wars again brought America and Pakistan together
Pakistan also sought out second-tier powers. Military relations were established with Turkey, Iran, and Iraq via the Baghdad Pact (later CENTO), and then with North Korea.
These links were as “pragmatic” as those with the Americans and Chinese. The Iran-Turkey relationship was ostensibly an alliance of moderate anti-communist states, but Pakistan also entered into a close military relationship with totalitarian North Korea.
At the same time, Pakistan also pursued close relations with important Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. They were part of British India’s sphere of influence and had many social and economic ties with Pakistan. Moreover, they were part of the “Islamic world,” so Pakistani strategists expected them to be supportive.
The Saudi tie endured because the two states each offered something important to the other. The Saudis bankrolled Pakistani military programs and provided grants for oil purchases, while Pakistan trained Saudi forces and cooperated on intelligence matters.
The two countries worked closely together in Afghanistan during the war to expel the Soviets, and then to support the Taliban.
Foreign Policy during 80s and 90s:
During the Zia years and the subsequent decade of democracy, Pakistan’s relations with other countries became an important factor in its own internal politics.
Although America lost interest in Pakistan after 1989, the country’s strategic significance did not diminish.
Meanwhile China saw Pakistan as an important point of access to the Islamic world and a balancer of India.
Pakistan preserved its already close ties with Saudi Arabia and China but also expanded them to North Korea (a source of military technology).
Things quickly went bad, and by 1999 many of the contradictions in Pakistan’s political, economic, and social structure became painfully evident.
The government’s enthusiastic support for the Afghan Taliban and for Islamic militants in Indian-administered Kashmir eventually backfired when the Taliban wound up supporting al Qaeda.
The Kargil war led to a civil-military crisis and the return of the army to overt political power.
Pakistan’s nuclear program alienated the United States, and its support for Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan (and at home) worried both America and Islamabad’s most important friend, China, both of which began to court Pakistan’s major strategic rival, India.
Foreign Policy after 9/11:
Pakistan agreed to abandon the Taliban, provide extensive military and intelligence support to the United States, and allow its territory to be used by American forces fighting in Afghanistan—all major concessions.
Reporters from many countries told the world what informed Pakistanis already knew: this was a country rapidly slipping into extremism and violence, a scourge to all of its neighbors, and a potential threat to friends and allies such as the United States and China.
In 2001 the logic of the U.S.-Pakistan alliance dictated changes in Pakistan’s domestic politics. If the new alliance was to be directed against terrorism, then Pakistan’s relations with the groups of concern to Washington had to change, which included supporters within Pakistan itself.
Even more striking was the pressure put on Pakistan to reduce its support for terrorist groups operating in Indian-administered Kashmir, though they had not usually targeted Americans. Because of its new relationship with India, the United States pressed Pakistan to end its support for crossborder terrorists moving across the Line of Control into Kashmir.
This, along with some intense but secret India-Pakistan negotiations, led to the dramatic summit meeting between Indian and Pakistani leaders in January 2004 during the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting in Islamabad. After the May 2004 national election in India, the two countries resumed talks on nuclear issues and Kashmir.
American pressure on Pakistan worked for two reasons. First, Musharraf had already banned a number of extremist Islamic groups, in August 2001, although the order was enforced half-heartedly at best. When the United States and other countries insisted that Pakistan end its flirtation with terrorist groups, the military leadership had less difficulty acting: Pakistan absolutely needed international economic support to remain viable, and the West was clearly prepared to “crash” Pakistan’s economy if the government did not cooperate.
Second, Musharraf knew that if he did not accede to American demands, Washington had alternatives in South Asia. The new U.S.-India tie, forged by the Clinton administration and extended by George W. Bush, gave America unprecedented leverage over Pakistan. Musharraf promised to stop cross-border terrorism but reserved the right to morally and politically support the Kashmiri brethren, whose blood, he declared, ran through the veins of the Pakistani people.
Foreign Policy Current:
The second factor, related to the first, is the rise of India. India seeks to be an extra-regional power and, according to some, a global power. Right-wing Indians associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for example, believe that India already is a global power. As such, India continues to develop relationships in Pakistan’s near and far neighborhood that serve both to deny Pakistan the possibility of developing a positive influence in and access to the same countries as well as of developing commercial and other economic interests throughout the region, including hydrocarbon resources. As India continues its ascent with U.S. assistance and continues to develop ties to its neighbors, such as Iran and Afghanistan, Pakistan will likely turn more toward Islamism and militancy and redouble its efforts to regain control of its various militant proxies, some of whom have turned against the Pakistani state or who are, at least for now, operating with greater independence from it.
A third issue factor China. In recent years, China has grown ever more wary of the management of Pakistan’s internal security crises. Because China currently is the largest foreign direct investor (in the Aynak copper mine in Logar) in Afghanistan and has made significant investments in Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asia, it is rightly worried about Pakistan’s use of Islamist proxies. Moreover, China’s own restive Uighurs have received training in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While China increasingly views India with concern, it is also aware that India offers more opportunities than Pakistan. Any reorienting of China away from Pakistan—be it political, diplomatic, or economic—may be an important wake-up call. However, China is unlikely to abandon its military ties with Pakistan because China believes that balancing Pakistan’s capabilities vis-à-vis India serves its objectives with respect to containing India as a South Asian power. Unfortunately, the United States has not made significant outreach to China as a regional partner.
For complete Pakistan Affairs notes click here.