Changing dynamics of Foreign Policy by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Throughout recorded history nations (or communities as nation is a modern formulation) competed and collaborated with each other. The foreign policy dynamics evolved with the advancement in technology especially in communication, transportation and weapon systems. The main objectives of a foreign policy are to gain access to resources, seek market access for the merchandize or ensure security of the state. These three objectives have not changed throughout history except that methods and tools have evolved with advancement in science.

Since its independence, United States of America (USA) has not experienced a direct attack on her soil by any conventional army. The only time it did experience an aerial attack was on Pearl Harbor during WWII. Even that was credited to the handy work of British intelligence that created a fear in Japanese that American is about to enter the war on Allied side. Japanese Generals decided to launch a preemptive attack to make Americans fearful of entering the war. British achieved their objective as Americans overcame their hesitation to formally join the war. Similarly the attack of 911 cannot be classified as an enemy attack as its perpetrators and executioners were non-state actors. This means that Americans do not have real appreciation of devastating effects war could have on a society. This produced callousness to use military as a foreign policy tool without giving sufficient consideration to human sufferings that can emanate from it. It is because of this lack of empathy for others that America has been the only international power that engaged in conventional wars on foreign lands since Second World War to promote its interests. Soviet involvement in Afghanistan cannot be termed as war because Afghan government invited them to provide security. On the other hand America formally led war efforts in South Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Panama and Afghanistan without provocation by anyone of these nations.

Europeans, Russians and Asians on the other hand experienced war first hand in last three hundred years. Berlin and London both were almost razed to the ground because of incessant bombing on both sides. Russia suffered loss of over 20 million people in the WWII and experienced threat to Moscow twice in last 250 years. It is because of this experience they understand the devastation war can bring to a society. They are more careful in resorting to a military adventure and always prefer diplomacy to playout first.

Another angle from which American use of military should be looked at is economic growth. After the WWII the Marshall Plan provided an opportunity for American exporters to help in rebuilding of Europe. That provided sustained economic growth for America for almost fifty years. American planners believe that war not only stimulates local economy because of rising demand for munition and other logistics but also creates markets for capital goods. Oil wells, refineries and infrastructure damaged in a third world country because of a war can only be rebuilt by American and Western engineers as they have the technology and the knowhow to execute large scale projects.

In trade America has used the creation of World Trade Organization (WTO) to pressurize other powers, especially Russia and China, to agree to terms of trade that are largely drafted by them. They prevented entry of China to WTO until certain concessions were agreed by them in foreign policy arena. Similarly American and Western control of multilateral financing organizations i.e. IMF and IFC, have enabled them to link financing to achieve foreign policy objectives.

The dynamics of foreign policy are changing in the 21st century as compared to in 20th century presented above. The wars of Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated that occupation by conventional armies is expensive both in terms of capital and personnel. And it works as a double edged sword if these costs cannot be recouped as was the case in Afghanistan. Another lesson learned by smaller states is that non-conventional war strategy is their best bet to resist a many times bigger enemy. This will increase reliance on non-state actors by states to prevent formal declaration of war. Russia adopted that strategy in Ukraine and so far it seems to be holding up. Turkey and Saudi Arabia adopted the similar strategy in Syria but that brings us to another lesson learned. It is that bringing war to one’s border can be costly for a nation. Pakistan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are case in point. This week Yemeni fighters attacked a town inside Saudi Arabia in retaliation to the air strikes and military intervention by her. It was the similar strategy adopted by America to bring war to the borders of Germany by inducing her to retaliate against Russia by imposing sanctions in Ukraine. It was because Germany was the only hurdle in maintaining American influence over EU foreign policy because of her size in terms of population and size of the economy.

It is these lessons learned that are driving the military component of foreign policy. One formulation emerging is the rise of regional forces. African Union has a military component while Egypt and Saudi Arabia suggested a GCC mandated military component to deal with security risks in Middle East. Japan may lead efforts to create a South Asian military organization in which Vietnam, Australia, Indonesia and Philippines could play a part and is co-sponsored by USA. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) may also consider a military structure to protect the Eurasian vision of Russia and Chinese infrastructure investment in the region. Apart from that China is developing new islands in South China seas that will be used as military bases to keep the war away from its borders and reduce its adverse effects on social structure and economy. Another strategy adopted by China is to sign long term leases for dual use ports in South Asia and Africa.

In terms of trade and market access both China and USA are offering competitive trade agreements throughout the world. America’s Transpacific Partnership (TPP) is competing with Chinese suggested Free Trade Area of the Pacific (FTAAP). America is also seeking a free trade agreement with EU. Apart from these multilateral arrangements both China and America as signing bilateral trade agreements with countries. China is already number one or two trading partner of leading world economies including South Korea, India, Germany, Brazil and Turkey. This has reduced the appeal of American markets which was one of the major foreign policy tool used by her. Apart from that regional trade associations are emerging as a counter to WTO. This will further reduce the bargaining power of America.

China has also announced an Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which will be an alternative to Western controlled World Bank and Western allied Japanese controlled Asian Development Bank (ADB). China has also signed MoUs, worth billions of dollars, with countries in South Asia and Africa. China and Russia has also signed currency swap agreements with major energy exporting countries to reduce reliance on dollar as a default trade currency. Chinese financial planners are actively exploring ways to introduce Renminbi as an alternate trade currency. This will further blunted the foreign policy influence of USA.

Another interesting development is the irrelevance of UNSC to solve international crisis. In its place has emerged a new formulation that led the negotiations with Iran. It was called P5+1. It comprised of five permanent members of UNSC plus Germany. Similar formulations might emerge to solve other international crisis like Afghanistan, Kashmir, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and North Korea. For instance for Afghanistan a P5+3 could be a useful format which will include five permanent members of UNSC plus Iran, Pakistan and Turkey to engage with all stakeholders in Afghanistan.

A new dynamic that has been added to foreign policy is the use of social media. In almost all recent movements including Middle East, Brazil and Ukraine social media played an important role. It is still not clear how much of these movements were directed by covert organizations both legitimate and illegitimate. America is currently dominating both new and conventional media. But in conventional media other countries have gained significant foothold. Aljazeera (Qatar sponsored), RT (Russia Today), Al-Arabiya (Saudi sponsored) and CCTV (China Central TV) have emerged as an alternate media sources for policy makers and public because of their credible and in depth coverage of news and events. Pakistan can emerge as a global player in this area because of its available talent, technical knowhow, and extensive content syndication arrangements.

Foreign policy is not an exact science but it is important to understand it’s dynamics to formulate a strategy how to approach it. The first priority of Pakistan should be to improve relations with all her neighbors and use its foreign policy assets effectively.

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