What are the Challenges Arising in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy due to Changing Global Power Dynamics?

Pakistan's Foreign Policy Challenges by Mariam Haider

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Challenges | Daily Writeup | Opinions

The following article, What are the Challenges Arising in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy due to Changing Global Power Dynamics?, is written by Mariam Haider, a student of Sir Syed Kazim Ali. Moreover, the article is written on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. Sir Kazim has uploaded his students’ solved past paper questions so other thousands of aspirants can understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.

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The complexities within global power dynamics, where alliances, conflicts, and negotiations are all intertwined, bear immense significance as they not only mould the destiny of nations but also steer the trajectory of crucial global events. However, the evolving global power dynamics characterized by China’s rise, the United States’ declining influence, and changing regional dynamics in South Asia present multifaceted challenges to Pakistan’s foreign policy. The departure of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan has left a security vacuum in the region, increasing instability and potential security threats for Pakistan. Balancing relations with China and the United States is complex, given the USA’s opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Furthermore, the India-U.S. partnership signifies India’s hegemonic desires in the region, adding to the intricacies of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Economic challenges, such as declining GDP growth, also pose significant concerns. Additionally, Pakistan grapples with the impacts of the Saudi-Iran rivalry in the Middle East, Afghanistan’s instability, and its involvement in international organizations like SAARC, which is hindered by tensions with India. Therefore, navigating these challenges requires Pakistan to explore strategies for maximizing its benefits from the evolving world order, including increasing regional connectivity, pursuing economic independence, adopting an independent stance on global conflicts, transitioning from geostrategic to geo-economic priorities, and realigning its relations with key-players in this globalized world like China, the USA, and Russia.

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Analyzing the brief overview of global power dynamics before discussing other points, global power dynamics, a multifaceted landscape, involves intricate interactions through the geostrategic tapestry of the interconnected world. Powerful nations, characterized by economic strength, military capabilities, and diplomatic actions towards global events, provide assistance to emerging states to enhance their influence whereas emerging nations strive to achieve stability and make efforts to reshape their established norms.  However, economic interdependence, accompanied by globalization and technological advancements, is pivotal in shifting the world order. Therefore, the constant evolution of global power dynamics underscores the need for diplomatic strategies and completes understanding of the geopolitical landscape by emerging nations as these dynamics mark the course of international affairs and shape a nation’s future.

Moving ahead towards foreign policy’s significance, a nation’s foreign policy plays a crucial role in determining its international standings. Indeed, foreign policy enables the state to interact with the outside world, create allies, resolve disputes, and represent its ideas, norms, and ideology worldwide. In addition to defending national interests, a well-adapted foreign policy promotes economic expansion, cross-cultural interactions, and diplomatic cooperation. It establishes a country’s stance on important topics and shapes opinions worldwide. Hence, foreign policy is crucial in shaping a country’s identity, power dynamics, and global trajectory in this modern era, where the world is compressed into a worldwide village.

Further, analyzing the world order shift series before jumping towards the main maxim is essential to better understand the challenges. In this context, the traditional geopolitical world order undergoes a rapid deviation from a unipolar landscape dominated by the United States to a more pronounced era marked by multilateralism. China, a South Asian country that has improved its economic landscape in a very short period of time, soon emerges as a developed nation, which ultimately redefines global power dynamics. Therefore, the waning dominance of the United States disrupts the unipolar paradigm, signalling a decline in its hegemonic power. This change is reflected in the South Asian region, where new power dynamics call for reevaluating ties and approaches. A paradigm shift is indicated by the rise of a multipolar world order, which necessitates the independent navigation of novel geopolitical circumstances.

Taking a historical analysis of Pakistan’s foreign policy, since 1947, Pakistan’s foreign policy has showcased adaptability in response to the changing global order. Early ties with the United States during the Cold War transitioned into a pivotal partnership with China in the 1970s, reshaping regional dynamics. The Afghan conflict in the 1980s influenced security considerations. After the Twin Tower attack, cooperation with the USA against terrorism intensified. Thus, Pakistan’s foreign policy is a dynamic interplay of global dynamics, regional necessities, and constant adaptability. From the Cold War era to contemporary counterterrorism collaborations, it mirrors the intricate navigation of challenges in an ever-shifting international landscape.

Overviewing the challenges Pakistan’s foreign faces due to changing global power dynamics, one striking instance is the removal of NATO and American forces from Afghanistan, which left a vacuum in authority and created instability. In addition to jeopardizing regional stability, this void could pose security risks to Pakistan. To protect national interests in the face of the unstable and complicated regional environment created by the shifting global power dynamics, navigating these complex geopolitical upheavals necessitates strategically reevaluating alliances.

Further, Pakistan’s current foreign policy grapples with intricate ties to superpowers— the USA, a provider of military aid and assistance, and China, a steadfast and robust ally. Pakistan’s entanglement in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), notably the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), poses a dilemma. The USA’s counter-project, the Belt and Road Block (BBB), excluding China, intensifies complexities. During the USA-China trade war, Pakistan navigates diplomatic intricacies and complex relations with both superpowers. Navigating these intricate relationships is crucial to safeguarding national interests amid the evolving global geopolitical landscape.

On the other hand, India’s foreign policy aims to counter the hegemonic aspirations that are being fostered by its strategic partnership with the United States. This partnership, exemplified by the BECA agreement, represents a dramatic change in power dynamics, establishing the USA and India as key players influencing the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific area. The agreement enhances military cooperation and intelligence sharing, consolidating India’s position on the global and regional level to counter China’s influence. As India aligns with a major superpower, the dynamics in the region undergo a transformative shift, challenging the equilibrium and necessitating diplomatic actions to navigate the complexities arising from this evolving geopolitical landscape.    

Besides, Pakistan’s dynamic foreign policy presents a formidable challenge to its impending economic growth. The latest World Bank report reveals a 0.6% downturn in Pakistan’s GDP growth for 2023 compared to the previous year, underscoring significant economic concerns. This decline underlines the urgency of strategic adjustments in foreign relations to address economic challenges. Navigating these complexities is crucial as Pakistan endeavours to foster economic growth, emphasizing the need to align foreign policy with initiatives to bring economic stability and counteract the impact of the economic contraction in the ongoing year.

Next, Pakistan finds itself ensnared in the rivalries of Middle Eastern states, navigating intricate relationships with significant players such as Saudi Arabia, a crucial oil exporter and aid provider, and Iran, a neighbouring nation essential to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This diplomatic entanglement highlights the challenge of balancing ties with these nations, each holding distinct roles and interests. While Saudi Arabia contributes as an economic partner and supporter, Iran’s geographical proximity and involvement in CPEC introduce intricate challenges. Balancing ties with these nations becomes a diplomatic challenge for Pakistan, requiring effective management of relations with both countries amid the changing world order.

Likewise, the security environment of Pakistan is shadowed by the ongoing instability in Afghanistan, as evidenced by the more than 3 million Afghan refugees living within its borders. In addition to directly endangering Pakistan, the unstable state of affairs in Afghanistan highlights the complex security issues that the country faces. The historical connections and porous border between the two countries intensify the effects of Afghanistan’s instability. As a frontline state, Pakistan has to deal with the complex implications that call for a strong foreign policy that not only tackles the current security issues but also supports efforts to promote peace and stability in the area and throughout South Asia.

Lastly, Pakistan’s active involvement in international organizations, such as its membership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), presents opportunities and challenges. While SAARC offers a platform for regional cooperation, particularly in economic and political spheres, the persistent tensions with India hinder fully realizing these potentials. Bilateral issues between Pakistan and India cast a shadow on collaborative efforts within SAARC, influencing diplomatic relations. To navigate this, a delicate balance requires a foreign policy that can benefit international organizations while addressing and mitigating underlying tensions, fostering a conducive environment for beneficial regional cooperation.

However, Pakistan can deliberately concentrate on several essential projects to optimize the advantages of the shifting global landscape. Improving the region’s connectedness, primarily by building a railway to Uzbekistan, promotes trade and geopolitical influence. Stabilizing itself through economic independence becomes crucial, highlighting resilience and self-sufficiency. Moreover, Pakistan can demonstrate its diplomatic independence by taking an independent stance regarding international issues like Palestine, Taiwan, and Ukraine. Shifting from geostrategic to geo-economic priorities mirroring China and India ensures a focus on economic interests despite geopolitical tensions. Furthermore, realignment with Russia and China while maintaining relations with the USA enables a balanced approach to navigating the evolving global dynamics.

In summary, Pakistan’s foreign policy is situated at a crossroads in global power dynamics, where flexibility is critical to negotiating the intricacies of a dynamic international system. The country’s strategic decisions, which include economic independence, realignments with China and Russia, and a diplomatic response to regional disputes, demonstrate its dedication to defending national interests. And Pakistan faces difficulties arising from security concerns, economic uncertainties, and regional rivalries. So, it needs to maintain a careful equilibrium between critical powers, and its foreign policy can help obtain national interests by maintaining diplomatic relations with other countries, building economic resilience, and preserving a strategic balance in a volatile and continuously changing global environment.

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