Pakistan’s admission in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has been termed ‘a historic occasion’ and ‘an important foreign policy milestone’. Pakistan’s foreign office and analysts term SCO’s importance as a regional political and security bloc. They term Pakistan’s full membership ‘significant’. However, I am not carried away by the fanfare and wish to relate it to the harsh ground realities, top most being: Pakistan’s foreign policy, economic development and security threats.
I have a strong feeling that Pakistan’s foreign policy has always remained subservient to the United States in the past and Saudi Arabia during the regime of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharf. Pakistan joined the US to avert USSR assault in Afghanistan and since then has been fighting a proxy war. One does not see any prospects of US-led forces leaving Afghanistan, though the withdrawal was supposed to be completed in 2014.
Pakistan’s relationship with Iran have not been ‘cordial’ since toppling of the Shah’s regime. Bilateral trade, despite enjoying a common-boarder, has reduced and reduced to the minimum in the aftermath of impositions of sanctions by the US and followed by other countries. This brought Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project to halt. India very smartly walked away on ‘security threats’ and Pakistan didn’t accept Iran’s financial assistance to complete the pipeline. The situation has not changed even after easing/withdrawal of sanction imposed on Iran by the superpowers.
Russia, under the leadership of Putin is trying to establish cordial relationships with Pakistan by offering financial assistance, but the ruling junta still has certain apprehensions, may be due to the US pressure and Russia’s most cordial relationships with India and Iran. There is also a fear that its re-approaching may also offend China.
Since independence, Pakistan has remained under ‘war like situation’ with India and booth the countries have fought three wars. Pakistan alleges that RAW agents intrudes from Afghanistan and Iran for undertaking cross-border terrorist attacks. The most embarrassing situation was created by the arrest of a Raw agent at the Pakistan-Iran boarder on the day of visit of Iranian President to Pakistan.
Some analysts say that now India surrounds Pakistan from three sides, India, Afghanistan and Iran. Their point is that India was an enemy, but Pakistan’s tweaked foreign policy has given India opportunities to make the home in the hearts of Afghans and Iranian. While Pakistan is still fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan and refusing to open up trade with Iran, India is doing extensive development work in Afghanistan and Iran, its involvement in the construction of Iranian port Chabahar, even when sanctioned were imposed on Iran is not a secret.
As regards economic development in Pakistan, it remains a dream. Doubts are being created by groups having vested interest about CPEC. Some of the opponents even go to the extent of calling it another ‘East India Company’. It may be suspected that these groups are supported by India, which is opposing CPEC because some of its sections pass through ‘Pakistan held Kashmir’. There have been attacks on Chinese Engineers working in Pakistan. India’s sole objective remains weakening Pakistan’s economy in lieu of any military assault.
Pakistan’s economy has flourished on grants, aid and lending by the multilateral financial institutions, rather than any home grown-plan, its textile industry has flourished during the textile quota regime. Over the last three decades the country continues to suffer from the worst energy crisis, not because of limited power generation capacity, but rampant pilferage and none payment of bills by those enjoying support of linguistic, religious and political groups.
Since the attack on Afghanistan by USSR, the US terms Pakistan ‘front-line partner in the war against terror’, but the country has suffered the most because of bomb blasts, suicide attacks and targeted killing of people. There is a growing perception that all the militants enjoy financial support and arms supplies from outside, by the groups adamant at spreading sectarian conflict and anarchy.
Economic development of Pakistan is not dependent on foreign assistance, but developing a ‘united nation’ strong enough to avert all sorts of aggression at its own, i.e. linguistic, cultural, sectarian. This demands, formation of an independent foreign policy, establishing cordial relationship with immediate neighbors and creation of interfaith harmony. Unless all these priorities are placed in order and collective efforts are made, Pakistan will not be able to gain any benefit from being part of any association, group or bloc.
SOC, China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Iran, Afghanistan,