Abdul Rashid Shakir
In a stream of consciousness if we flash back on the timeline a couple of years ago, a plethora of diplomatic challenges come to fore.
We were confronted with never-ending US pressure of ‘Do More’, nabbing threat of inclusion in the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list, a cruel apathy of international community towards our views on massive human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K), a challenging friction with Iran on our South Western border, and a terrorizing tension with Afghanistan in the porous mountainous region in the North West.
But when we fast forward Pakistan’s diplomatic history to 18 August 2020 when the current democratic dispensation completed its two years in office, it seemed as if rays of hope have overpowered this inherent gloom in international perception of our beloved home land.
We are now lauded by the US Administration for playing a pivotal role in brokering a peace deal between US and Afghan Taliban, we have almost accomplished 27-point ‘To Do List’ for getting our name off the FATF-hook, we have not only successfully managed our differences with Iran but have also entered into a long-term strategic partnership with it under the CPEC framework.
We are also on our way to build credible symbiotic relations with war-ravaged Afghanistan in our backyard.
All this happened because of concerted and well-coordinated efforts of all stakeholders, be it civil or military, responsible for the formulation and execution of our foreign policy.
Major factors that were instrumental in furthering this successful forward-looking foreign policy include our unswerving stance on Kashmir cause, our solid commitment to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and our sincere efforts for the Afghan peace process.
After Indian Government’s illegal action of revoking Article 370 and 35-A of its constitution to annex Kashmir as one of its union territories by changing its special status on 05 August 2019, Pakistan strongly protested over this Indian constitutional aggression at all international fora, be it United Nations, European Union or Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). By dint of Pakistan’s lobbying and intensive diplomatic efforts, Kashmir issue was discussed thrice in the United Nations during the last one year since 05 August 2019.
European Union and Human Rights Watch released reports on gross violations of fundamental human rights in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K).
This showed international community the dark side of India‘s claim of being world’s biggest democracy. Pakistan has been successful in portraying India as an aggressor who is denying Kashmiri people their UN-recognized right to self-determination.
Secondly, Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to enter into long term strategic partnership with China by implementing communication, infrastructure, energy, industrial and agricultural development projects under the CPEC framework is an epoch-defining decision of our foreign policy which would be key to socio-economic development of the entire Afro-Eurasian region.
It has paved the way for regional and international strategic realignments. And Pakistan, of course, would be a major linchpin in the economic and geographic integration of this whole region.
Thirdly, Pakistan has played a vital role in cutting a peace deal between the US and Afghan Talibans, in order to achieve a lasting stability in the region.
It would not only secure Pakistan’s rugged mountainous border in the West but would also lend peace and socio-economic prosperity to Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Moreover, once stable, Afghanistan could also join CPEC framework, and reap its rich dividends through better regional connectivity.
On top of all, Iran’s projected inclusion in the CPEC to make it ICPEC (Iran China Pakistan Economic Corridor) speaks volume of Pakistan and China’s collective diplomatic prowess in the region.
By playing this strategic stroke, both have been able to minimize Indian influence in the region, as Iran has already given China the key contract to develop its Chabahar port after ceasing its earlier contract with India for the purpose. Iranian Government has also revoked its already-negotiated contracts awarded to Indian companies for the development of major rail and road projects in its country.
Additionally, Pakistan has also prioritized economic diplomacy as one of the guiding principles of its foreign policy.In this regard, aremarkable futuristic strategic move of our foreign policyin the preceding couple of yearsis its “Engage Africa Initiative”, under which it is aggressively pursuing closer economic and cultural ties with emerging African economies along the Mediterranean and Western coast line of Africa, like Morocco, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana.
Africa is, undoubtedly, going to be the next epicenter of large scale economic activities in the world. Recently, it is being dubbed as China’s China, as Chinese manufacturing companies are being relocated to African countries in large numbers due to the availability of cheap labor force there.
After the phenomenal economic rise of China, workshop of the world, labor costs have ballooned there, making the Chinese manufacturing industry less competitive internationally.
Therefore, Chinese companies are exploring other low cost labor options in Africa to maintain its position as top exporter of goods in the world.
Strengthening Pak-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the proposed15 legal amendments to document grey areas of the economy, and strengthening regulations to check illicit financial transactions are testament to Government’s efforts for putting the economy on fast-track growth trajectory.
Pakistan direly needs to capitalize much on all the above- mentioned of its diplomatic achievements in order to thrive both socially and economically in the decades to come.