Russian President Vladmir Putin has concluded his short visit to New Delhi, leaving a trail of stock-taking moments for the diplomatic tzars in our Foreign Ministry. Both sides (Indian and Russian) revived their “all-weather” friendship or partnership at a time when the US is also cosying up to India to tackle the Chinese influence in the region. Moscow seems to challenge Washington’s sway over India, but at the end of the day, the beneficiary of the Russia-US rivalry would be India. On the other hand, Russia continues to be nice with China to build a partnership in Afghanistan. During Putin’s visit to India, both sides pledged to strengthen defence agreements under which Moscow will work with India on a 10-year military-technical plan for technology transfer to India. In doing so, India has resisted the US pressure.
The whole scenario does not spot Pakistan anywhere, and this should cause a soul-searching for our Foreign Office. Pakistan needs to revisit its diplomacy and foreign policy as currently our policy is utterly failing at every front, be it regional or global. On the other hand, India seems to be progressing perfectly well on the diplomatic and economic fronts. Pakistan has always eyed USA’s support and it has mostly failed in getting it other than in times when the global hegemon had to use Pakistan for one purpose or the other. It has always had a marriage of convenience with Pakistan. Meanwhile, India has been able to maintain a good relationship with both the US and Russia.
Russia has deemed India as a ‘great power’. Ties between the two countries are bolstering in the energy and military sectors as deliveries of weapons have started. On the other hand, Pakistan has not been able to develop a sound relationship with either. Pakistan does have close ties with China, which is an upcoming global power but Pakistan-China ties have also been tumultuous in the recent years due to the domestic situation of Pakistan and the looming threat of terrorism. However, this is not the sole reason for which Pakistan is not able to create and maintain ties with global superpowers.
This is a diplomatic failure as Pakistan has not been able to develop a good image for itself. If the past 10 years are taken into account, the PML-N government did not have a foreign minister as the office was kept by the prime minister himself. This resulted in a lack of development of a sound foreign policy that would bring in the necessary instruments to develop sustainable ties with countries such as the US and Russia. The PTI government did separate the foreign ministry from the prime minister’s office but most of the time was spent on being a mediator between the Taliban and the US. That time was a great opportunity for Pakistan to develop good ties with the US however, that was not done. Moreover, Pakistan has been so focused on developing its relationship with China that it completely forgot to develop relations with the global hegemon. Unlike India that has kept its ties with both Russia and the US so that it can choose as per its own convenience.
Pakistan should work on a robust foreign policy to overcome the pricking diplomatic challenges. First, it should start looking beyond China. No doubt, Chinese investment in Pakistan is a game changer, but this single source of investment may take the economy nowhere. Even the Chinese have no issue if Pakistan expands its investment horizons. Second, Pakistan needs to go beyond Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, Turkey and Malaysia. Third, Pakistan needs to focus on its own interests instead of becoming a full-time spokesperson for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Finally, it needs to make its bilateral exchanges multidimensional. At a time when the pandemic has repeatedly halted the growth of almost all economies of the world, this is a golden time for Pakistan to reach out to the world offering its services and products. Though in recent times, Pakistan’s exports are growing, the matter of concern is that the same destinations are being targeted and repeated. We have been unable to find a new market for our exports, that is a collective failure of our commerce and foreign ministries. Pakistan needs to be ready for a revived Russia-US rivalry after US President Biden’s warning to his Russian counterpart that the US will impose crippling sanctions on Russia if it seeks to attack and occupy Ukraine. The build-up of Russian troops near the Ukraine border is the sign of something big.
All these signs pose a challenge to our Foreign Office.