Absence of a doctrine by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Relations between states are increasingly complex because of the globalization of world community and emergence of multilateral regional and world forums. There are two overriding interests, security and trade, that drive any foreign policy. But at the same time there are many underlying issues that cannot be ignored. For instance human rights and impact on environment. To elaborate this further imagine the damage done to Pakistan’s carpet industry when use of child labor in that industry resulted in sanctions and restrictions. Or for example the controls on ivory trade that has made that industry extinct which is good for the survival of elephants. These complexities demand that a doctrine has to be developed that defines the foreign policy approach adopted by a nation.

Prime Minister Modi has adopted the philosophy of Arthashastra developed by the statesman Kautilya popularly known as Chanakya. Kautilya is credited with establishing the Mauriya dynasty that united India in 3rd century BC. In this philosophy relations have to be developed with nations that are on the other side of a state that is considered dangerous to the empire. Indian overtures to Afghanistan and Iran to undermine the strategic interests of Pakistan is part of this approach. Another element suggested by Chanakya is to rely on domestic terrorism and funding of non-state actors. Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Duval now infamous video highlighted that point. Another important approach in this strategy is not to occupy the enemy state but divide it into manageable pieces. For this purpose India will seek all possible avenues to fund Baluch separatists; give support to demand of Pashtunistan by reaching out to factions in TTP and Afghan Taliban; recruit from among Mohajir community of Karachi; provide voice to creation of a Seraiki territory and reactivate dormant Sindhi nationalists. Similar approach will be adopted to deal with other threats for instance signing security pact with Japan to check China.

China on the other hand has adopted the Confucian philosophy of non-interference and non-intervention in other states. Chine presented its five principles of foreign policy soon after the success of Mao led revolution that still derives it. These principles are: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. But at the same time they do not consider other states their equal which means that they dictate terms of association. China believes that current rule based system was developed without full participation by her and it is carry over from an era when she was not granted her rightful place in world affairs. It is demanding rewriting of some of those rules to accommodate her interests. Chinese emphasis on her rights in the South China seas is an effort to force these redrafts. One belt and one road initiative is considered the backbone of Chinese economic plans to link the Eurasian markets with its manufacturing base. Pakistan is one of the key component of this policy and is considered a gateway to the Central Asia. The only concern China has in persuasion of this strategy are forces of extremism, terrorism and separatism that are preventing emergence of stability and order in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Russia considers itself an anchor between Asia and Europe with her own unique civilization, culture and theocracy. It has self-confidence of successfully averting foreign aggression by reminding the world about the misadventures of Napoleon and Hitler. It does not consider West posing any direct threat of war but instead erosion of its sphere of influence there by undermining her rightful place as a hegemonic in the Eurasian region. It is for this reason it will not allow West to gain a strong foothold in its neighboring countries Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, Belarus and Latvia termed as near abroad. To maintain her economic independence it relies heavily on commodities especially fossil fuels. It is important for Russia to maintain tight control of supply lines of these fuels traversing the Eurasian landmass.

United States of America (USA) considers herself protector of values of freedom of expression, liberty and religion. It translates these values into free flow of goods and services across international borders. It is champion of promotion of liberal democracy and human rights around the world. It relies on regional alliances and allies to promote a rule based international order first in the form of Leaque of Nation and when it failed then introduced United Nations and World Trade Organization. Her own governance system enshrined in respect for intellectual property and free flow of capital provides the foundation for emergence of stable world economy. She is the market of last resort in times of chaos and economic shocks. For American policy makers fluidity of relations is more important as they consider foreign relations dynamic rather than static in nature. To ensure flexibility of action USA does not believe in permanent friends or allies. They have a shorter planning time horizon of 25-30 years as compared to European, Chinese or Russian planners that think in terms of half to a century of evolving relations.

Iran considers herself the heir of Middle East as the dominant civilization of the region whose history predates rise of Arab civilization after the advent of Islam. Its foreign policy is not driven by theological ideals but rather by the nationalistic ambitions that lay dormant during much of 20th century when she did not had resources or capability to compete with other powers. Now Iran feels that her moment has arrived. As inheritors of Persian civilization of the past, she should have a voice in affairs of Middle East especially Iraq and Syria that were part of her empire before it was fatally wounded and pushed back by Romans and then later Arabs. Her sectarian identity is an effort to culturally differentiate herself from Arabs which is predominantly Sunni. Even her Shia expression is quite different from the one pursued by Shai’s of Arab Iraq which claim to be inheritors of ideals of Ali (RATA) and his progeny. Religious seminaries of Qom in Iran and Najaf in Iraq are arch rivals and have substantial differences on theological questions. Marjas in Najaf reject Imam Khomeini’s political idea of vilayat e faqih (rule by the scholar).

Now when we look at our own house, it is unfortunate that Pakistan does not have a foreign policy doctrine that provides a guidance. We can at best term our approach as transactional with a horizon of 3-5 years rather than strategic with longer term view. We are focused completely on the binary objective of security of geographic borders rather than pursue a value driven policy that offers something to the world as well. We have less than warm relations with our Western neighbors Iran and Afghanistan while hostile environment prevails with our Eastern neighbor India which is just not our fault alone. Our internal weaknesses also weigh heavily on our foreign policy nervousness. Capability and depth of our planners as well as our short history of national existence are other factors that contribute towards this lack of depth in our approach. Our diplomats have to still learn the art of negotiations at international platforms as well as know how to use geopolitics to our advantage. We also lack existence of think tanks that cover various regions exclusively and utilize the expertise of intellectuals, academic and retired diplomats to provide policy guidelines.

To elaborate this point we have to look at the attitude of Iran and Afghanistan towards us. These neighbors consider Pakistan a transitionary state while India as a permanent entity on the world map. This is because of a long history of diplomatic relations between these countries as well as due to lack of well-defined doctrine on part of Pakistan.

It is also a fact that many of our internal issues are a direct consequence of wrong foreign policy positions in the past. That means that for a stronger nation we need a doctrine that is built from our future image of ourselves and our place in the world. Failure to develop this important policy will continue hurting us and cannot be delayed any longer. The first step is to initiate an all-encompassing discussion on who we are and what we believe in.

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