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Quests for Versatility in Foreign Policy of Pakistan

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As it will be recalled, on August 16, 2022, Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahbaz Sharif pointed out that it would be extremely dangerous for the global system to return to the understanding of politics based on polarization, by saying, “The world cannot afford a new Cold War period.”[1] Although the statements of the Prime Minister of Pakistan seem to be a speech about the international system, it essentially makes it clear that the Islamabad administration will not accept being forced to make a choice in foreign policy in any way. Therefore, Sharif once again reaffirmed that Pakistan is moving towards a multifaceted understanding of diplomacy that takes into account the balances between the power centers.

As it is known, Pakistan was subjected to some criticism due to its relations with the Taliban during the intervention of the United States (US) in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and as a result, it chose to get closer to China.

The relations established on the Islamabad-Beijing line seemed to be a rational choice of Islamabad due to the influence of the exclusionary policy of the US towards Pakistan as of the conditions of the period. However, in the course of time, Islamabad has seen that it has not been able to achieve the economic gains it expected from the relations it has established with Beijing. Especially the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), one of the six economic corridors of the Belt-Road Project, was thought to make a significant contribution to the development of Pakistan through infrastructure investments realized through loans and grants, but in practice, a result has emerged that the country is facing significant difficulties economically.

Moreover, it has been seen that Pakistan has become unsafe due to the terrorist attacks aimed at destabilizing the Belt-Road Project. Because attacks targeting project investments are frequently reflected in the news. This has led the Islamabad administration to seek a multifaceted foreign policy based on balance.

In terms of the quest, it is possible to accept Sharif’s becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan as a milestone. At this point, it should be noted that it is an extremely normal development for Islamabad to make an effort to repair its relations with the West after the election of Sharif due to the anti-Western stance of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. However, it is also recalled that after Sharif’s inauguration, claims were raised that Pakistan would choose to completely break away from China.

While Pakistan is starting a process that can be described as a “Western Opening”, breaking its ties with Beijing is not a mistake that this country, which has a long-established state tradition, will make. For this reason, Sharif reveals that a foreign policy based on balance will be carried out from the first day of his rule. In fact, Sharif, in his first speech to the Pakistani Parliament as Prime Minister, clearly stated that he wants to strengthen relations with states such as the US and the UK, that is, with the Western actors.[2] Afterwards, Pakistani officials came to the fore with statements revealing the importance they attach to CPEC. This has shown Pakistan’s quest of a multifaceted foreign policy based on balance. Finally, in a statement on July 25, 2022, Sharif stressed that China has invested in Pakistan and helped it overcome the crisis by building a power plant that generates thousands of megawatts of electricity thanks to its own capacity, resources, technology, machinery and expertise.[3]

Another example reflecting Pakistan’s quest for balance has shown itself in the steps it has taken to overcome the economic crisis the country is in. Because the administration of Islamabad, on the one hand, has reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan of 4 billion dollars,[4] and on the other hand, it has announced that it has received a loan of 2 billion dollars from China. [5] This is quite important in terms of showing that Pakistan observes the balances even when borrowing economically and does not want to become dependent on a single actor. In short, Pakistan refrains from the formation of a unilateral dependency relationship.

Another example reflects Islamabad’s policy of balance is that on August 3, 2022, following a Taiwan visit by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, on August 2, 2022, Pakistan has announced its support for the “One China Policy”[6] and shortly after that it participated in the “Regional Cooperation- 2022” exercise held in Tajikistan along with the US and Central Asian countries. [7]

As can be understood, Pakistan is careful not to confront China by reiterating its support for traditional theses on the territorial integrity of its neighbor China in terms of regional security. However, in doing so, it sends a message that it can work closely with the US on regional security issues along the South Asia-Central Asia line.

Consequently, Pakistan acts in line with a multifaceted understanding of diplomacy in its foreign policy. Therefore, with the Sharif era it can be said that Islamabad has implemented a policy that takes into account the Washington-Beijing balance and takes care to avoid unilateral dependency relations. It seems that the foreign policy is skillfully processed and therefore leads to positive results. There is no doubt that the successful continuation of the policy will contribute to strengthening the economic situation, security, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the country. Because Sharif’s statements opposing the polarization is an expression of the determination to maintain the strategy based on versatility.


[1] “World can’t Afford Another Cold War Era PM Shehbaz Says”, Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1705201/world-cant-afford-another-cold-war-era-pm-shehbaz-says, (Date of Accession: 18.08.2022).

[2] “ABD Yeni Pakistan Başbakanı Şerif’i Tebrik Etti”, TRT Haber, https://www.trthaber.com/haber/dunya/abd-yeni-pakistan-basbakani-serifi-tebrik-etti-672477.html, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[3] “Pakistan Başbakanı: Çin Her Zaman Pakistan’a Destek Veriyor”, Lotus News, https://www.ajanslotus.com/pakistan-basbakani-cin-her-zaman-pakistana-destek-veriyor, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[4] “Pakistan Reaches Agreement with IMF for $4 Billion Lifeline”, Wall Street Journal, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pakistan-reaches-agreement-with-imf-for-4-billion-lifeline-11657783994, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[5] “China Rolls over $2bn Loan for a Year”, International The News, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/979367-china-rolls-over-2bn-for-a-year, (Date of Accession: 17.08.2022).

[6] “Pakistan Reaffirms ‘One-China’ Policy”, Ministery of Foreign Affairs Goverment of Pakistan, https://mofa.gov.pk/pakistan-reaffirms-one-china-policy/#:~:text=Pakistan%20reaffirms%20its%20strong%20commitment,for%20regional%20peace%20and%20stability, (Date of Accession: 18.08.2022).

[7] “National Guardsmen Participate in Regional Cooperation 22”, U. S. Army, https://www.army.mil/article/259290/national_guardsmen_participate_in_regional_cooperation_22, (Date of Accession: 18.08.2022).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.