At Loggerheads Within 6 Months

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Our friends are going away from us. The neighbours are causing a commotion. Global problems demand attention. Pakistan was not in this position six months ago. The nation driving the transformation in Afghanistan was then in charge. It had established itself as the OIC’s primary forum for dialogue and a pioneer in Central Asian connectivity. However, now that it has been six months, even our friends have begun to shun us. And none other than the Prime Minister himself has stated this. In the past six months, neighbours like Afghanistan have begun to accuse us of deploying on two fronts. The OIC commitments appear to have lost all traction, and the Central Asian connectivity efforts have reverted to the status of standard communiqués and MOUs.

The most recent SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) conference provided Pakistan with a fantastic opportunity to assert itself. With a clear strategy, a well-thought-out approach, and some deftly designed bilateral and multilateral incentives, there was a tremendous opportunity to engage many extremely significant global players. But all that happened was a few ineffectual handshakes and meetups. There was some media coverage of the prime minister, but not for the correct reasons. Due to the popular satire/comedy, The Jimmy Fallon Show, when he attacked the Pakistan PM for stupidly fumbling with his headphones in his meeting with President Putin, a video of him centre stage went viral. Although it would have been amusing, this demonstrated a lack of statesmanship. After that trip, neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Minister released any firm statements, which only served to confirm that view. At a time when Pakistan sorely needs international sympathy, participation, and attention. It is imperative to create a strategic plan for reclaiming international space.

Not all presidents are adept at foreign affairs. Not all leaders are capable of grasping and pursuing this intricate field. As a leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto excelled. President Musharraf has a talent for drawing attention to himself while being a despot. Unfortunately, despite having led the nation four times each, Zardari and the Sharif Brothers have exhibited a striking lack of enthusiasm and attention to this crucial issue. Imran Khan, a former prime minister, had a strong interest in foreign affairs, and it was during his leadership, in particular, that Pakistan’s status in the international community increased. The appointment of Bilawal Bhutto as foreign minister shows immaturity. Instead of taking the initiative and carving out a position for Pakistan in international affairs, he appears to be casually sitting on the backbench. Either he completely modifies his strategy, or Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar is given the position or power to proceed and make an actual attempt to regain lost ground and stature.

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The creation of a National Security Document with the assistance of all stakeholders and a primary focus on foreign policy was one of the major initiatives undertaken during the past three years. A Strategic Communication apex committee was established by the Foreign Office, the National Security Advisor, and the necessary ministries to achieve this goal. They all had a hand in producing this ground-breaking text, which was introduced at a Security Dialogue Conference. The current issue is that it appears the current administration has no policy toward global issues whatsoever. Their claims have no real-world application. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be any ambition to advance locally or internationally.

At the Security Dialogue Conference, it was emphasised by all parties involved that Pakistan is moving from geopolitics to geoeconomics. This meant that Pakistan would make decisions that favoured the country’s economic prosperity rather than just lining up with political expediency. The necessity to stay out of regional wars started by other nations was specifically brought up. Because of this, a collective decision was taken under this strategy to approach Russia to purchase cheaper oil, gas, and wheat when global oil prices soared. This initiative has been delayed under the current administration, and the spiralling increase in oil prices that has followed has put a tremendous economic strain on the country.

On the sidelines of the SCO conference, the Prime Minister did have a meeting with the Russian president, but it is still unclear what the plan is for obtaining oil and gas from Russia if there is one at all. At least in this area, an unambiguous reaffirmation of the previous foreign policy stance is urgently required to end this ambiguity. To clear up any confusion, if the government decides to follow an alternative route, that new course must be explicitly sketched out and communicated to all parties involved.

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