Pakistan has very able diplomats but an underperforming diplomacy. Quality of diplomacy largely depends on policies. But diplomats do not make policies, the leadership does. And our leadership is still trapped in old assumptions about the world, about ourselves and other countries. In some ways, we are still trying to preserve the fiction of the old world.
Foreign policy involves making difficult choices, often between imperfect options. The worst choice you can make is not to make any choice. That is what we have done most of the times. We have let others make choices for us. Yes, the relations with China enjoy a national consensus and remain a success story but largely because the Chinese laid down the terms of engagement and drew up its broad parameters. And they did it so shrewdly it gave Pakistan an illusion of being an equal partner.
As for our other two “friends”, Saudi Arabia and the US, they have tried to buy our friendship. And this does not work, especially when you are dealing with a superpower, as it demands too much and does not take no for an answer. The fact is that US-Pakistan relations have been sporadic, focused on limited interests, and have operated in the context of the two countries’ differing interests, priorities and policies. And that is a recipe for recurring tensions.
The Saudis however have no such compunctions. They operate insidiously, and buy the friendship not only of the country but of its rulers as well. That is why the Saudi-Pakistan relationship has survived and prospered.
These two and a half relationships have enabled Pakistan to maintain a complaisant foreign policy and given enough margin of error to continue to live dangerously. You take away these status quo relationships and what are you left with? A whole lot of countries, especially in the region, with whom we have varying degrees of tension and conflict. Of course you cannot blame it all on Pakistan. It does after all live in a tough neighbourhood and has legitimate security concerns.
Read more at: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1360865/fighting-three-fronts/
The Express Tribune, March 21, 2017