What are the main determinants of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy? How current National Capacity has become major challenge before independent foreign policy of Pakistan.


CSS Solved Political Science Past Paper 2022 | What are the main determinants of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy? How current National Capacity has become major challenge before independent foreign policy of Pakistan.

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Question Breakdown

In this question, the examiner has asked about the main determinants of the foreign policy of Pakistan. Moreover, the examiner has asked about how current scenarios and upheavals have become a major challenge in the way of the independent foreign policy of Pakistan, mainly the current National Capacity of the country.


1- Introduction
2- Definition of foreign policy of Pakistan
3- Guidlines for the conduct of foreign policy
4- Twists and Turns in Pakistan’s foreign policy (1947 – to date)
5- Determinants of Pakistan’s foreign policy
6- Major challenge before an independent foreign policy of Pakistan
7- Viable Suggestions to Strengthen the Foreign Policy of Pakistan
8- Critical Analysis
9- Conclusion

Answer to the Question


Every country pursues its foreign policy according to its national interests. These interests depend upon several factors, for instance: cultural and historical traditions, geography, economy, political objectives, along with the geo-strategic location. Foreign policy is the mechanism national governments use to guide their diplomatic interactions and relationships with other countries. As far as Pakistan’s foreign policy is concerned, it is primarily directed at pursuing the national goals of seeking peace and stability through international cooperation. While defining foreign policy, several factors are considered. In Pakistan, several foreign policy determinants contribute while designing the foreign policy of Pakistan. The significant determinants of Pakistan’s foreign policy include its ideology, historical background, religion, geographical location, political system, economy, national leadership, and so on. These are significant factors that influence the foreign policy of a country. All these determinants are the leading factors while defining Pakistan’s foreign policy. However, since Pakistan’s inception, its foreign policy has indeed remained in the doldrums, and several twists and turns have been witnessed in it during different regimes. Similarly, In the current perspective, several factors have become major challenges in front of the independent foreign policy of Pakistan, mainly the current National Capacity. Despite challenges, Pakistan is still struggling to pave its way by adopting a neutral approach to its foreign policy.

“Our objective should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbours and with world at large.”

M A Jinnah’s Vision: 15 August 1947

Definition of the foreign policy of Pakistan

Foreign policy is a medium of meeting national interests and goals and a decision-making process for pursuing certain international activities. It is formed by the type of activities and behaviours associated with its interests related to other states..

Guidelines for the conduct of foreign policy

The Constitution of Pakistan provides several guidelines for the conduct of the country’s foreign policy. According to Article 40 of the constitution:

“The State shall endeavour to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic unity, support the common interests of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, promote international peace and security, foster goodwill and friendly relations among all nations and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.”

Pakistan’s foreign policy is primarily directed at pursuing the national goals of seeking peace and stability through international cooperation. In foreign policy, particular emphasis is laid on economic diplomacy to take advantage offered by the process of globalization as also to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Pakistan’s foreign policy is also geared to project the country’s image as a dynamic and moderate society.
Pakistan’s foreign policy aims to promote the internationally accepted rules of how states should treat each other. These rules include respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, not getting involved in the internal affairs of other states, not starting wars, and trying to settle disagreements through peaceful means. Pakistan has, therefore, always sought to develop friendly and cordial relations with all countries in the world.

Twists and Turns in Pakistan’s foreign policy (1947 – to date)

  • ✓ 1947-1953 (Neutral)
  • ✓ 1954-1970 (Pro-West -USA)
  • ✓ 1971-1977 (Pro-East – Russia)
  • ✓ 1978-1988 (Pro-West -USA)
  • ✓ 1989-1999 (Pro-East in the ear of Nawaz, it was Pro-West USA)
  • ✓ 1999-2007 (Pro-West -USA)
  • ✓ 2008-2017 (Pro-West -USA)
  • ✓ 2018-2022 (Pro-East)
  • ✓ 2022-202 3 (Pro- West)

Determinants of Pakistan’s foreign policy

In the contemporary world, no one state can exist independently. Each state is interdependent with the others. For this reason, every state must aspire to have positive relations with other states. Foreign policy determines and directs how the states interact with one another as members of the global community. Foreign policy is also affected by several factors, which are referred to as “determinants of foreign policy.” Each nation develops its foreign policy to achieve particular objectives in the global arena. That policy only partially relies on the decision-makers desires and morals. The determinants of foreign policy are the variables that affect foreign policy as follows:

The major 7 determinants of Foreign Policy are

  • ✓ Geo-graphical location
  • ✓ Population
  • ✓ History
  • ✓ Economic resources
  • ✓ Ideology
  • ✓ Political leadership
  • ✓ Diplomatic skill
  • ✓ Creating perceptions or misper­ceptions by using technology
  • A- Geographical location

The country’s geographical location is the primary determinant of its foreign policy. Geography affects foreign policy in two ways: the state’s geographical environment and how important its location is politically. As far as Pakistan’s geographical location is concerned, it has the most suitable place on the continent of Asia. Pakistan is in South Asia, and the Arabian Sea is to its south. Because of this, it is a crucial point of connection. Through its geostrategic location, Pakistan connects the Central Asian countries in the West with Russia and, in the east, with the world’s second-largest power, China. In the West, it is associated with the Middle East. Because of its geographical location, Pakistan was a dream for Russia in terms of warm waters and for the USA to contain China’s hegemony. Thus, each nation’s foreign policy particularly impacts its location geographically. Its secluded site within Great Britain promotes connectivity with other countries. Because of its geographic location, the United States has again successfully adopted a strategy of separation from Europe.

“The foreign policy of a country is determined by its geography.”

Napoleon Bonaparte
Source Google
  • B- Population

The population is seen as one of the critical factors influencing foreign policy. Traditionally, the population has been considered a crucial metric for assessing state power. For instance, the People’s Republic of China’s large infantry helped repel US forces during the last war. In terms of a state’s capacity, the relationship between population and foreign policy becomes more significant. The population heavily influences foreign policy because the abilities, skills, and good money of the people help the country become more powerful.

  • C- History

Each country’s foreign policy has an impact on its history. The unique circumstances of the events and the chips shaped each nation’s history in broad strokes. Its personality can be determined. The limitations imposed by historical circumstances set each country’s borders. Many fundamental aspects of foreign policy are formed throughout a nation’s development.

Since its inception, Pakistan has been facing complex challenges. Pakistan and India’s relations have been marred by distrust and antagonism. Pakistan and Afghanistan have also been at odds for a long, the main concern being the Durand Line, which Afghanistan is unwilling to accept as an international border. Because of this, Pakistan encountered an unbroken series of crises and challenges that, perhaps, no other country in the world has ever experienced. Each country bases its foreign policy on the lessons learned from its past. Each country’s foreign policy has an impact on its history. Thus, the unique circumstances of the events and the chips shape each nation’s history in broad strokes.

  • D- Economic resources

Economic resources play an essential role in determining the character and approach of foreign policy. Financial health is an indication of a state’s affordability. The economy is also a major determinant in shaping Pakistan’s foreign policy. For instance, the Middle East’s international politics have made mineral oil one of the most significant political centres. The foundation of a country’s international standing is its natural resources and industrial growth. Industrialization and the availability of natural resources in the modern world determine each nation’s resistance level. Same in the case with Pakistan. Hence, a strong economy provides more resistance to invasions.

  • E- Ideology

Different political philosophies control each state system. That ideology contains a state’s beliefs, principles, plans, priorities, and ambitions. Foreign policy and those ideologies govern a state’s foreign policy, not just its internal policies and ideals. Therefore, it can be regarded as one of the most significant factors determining foreign policy. For instance, communist states firmly believe in the values of world peace, friendliness, whereas capitalism believes in exploitation and oppression at home and abroad. Because of this, capitalist nations adopt aggressive measures in the realms of culture, politics, and economics as compared to communist states which spread

“Pakistan not only means freedom and independence but the Muslim Ideology which has to be preserved, which has come to us as a precious gift and treasure and which, we hope other will share with us.”

Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah vowed to preserve the Islamic Ideology

Moreover, at the very outset, Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, declared

“Pakistan came into being as a result of the urge felt by the Muslims of this subcontinent to secure territory, however limited, where the Islamic Ideology and way of life could be practiced and demonstrated to the world.”

So, it was not possible for our foreign policymakers to set aside this ideology while framing the country’s foreign policy. Hence Islamic ideology has always been a central focus in this realm.

  • F- Political leadership

Effectiveness of Government and Political Leadership is foreign policy’s primary driver and pillar. The caliber of the decision-makers determines the state’s function at each particular moment and the type of foreign policy to be pursued. Thus, foreign policy cannot be divorced from the character of governmental leadership.

  • G- Diplomatic skill

One of the most crucial factors affecting foreign policy is the effectiveness of diplomacy. A state’s diplomatic abilities and strategies determine whether it succeeds or fails in international politics. The government’s diplomatic skill determines each state’s goals and objectives. The individuals engaged in diplomatic activities establish all foreign policy objectives. The primary connections and disagreements with other states are settled through diplomatic engagement. Diplomats decide the method for bringing together various interests.

Pakistan’s strategy must align ends with means and its goals to its diplomatic capital.

Maleeha Lodhi
  • H- Creating perceptions or misper­ceptions by using technology

With the advancement of technology, another factor has emerged as an important determinant of Foreign Pol­icy, i.e., creating perceptions or misper­ceptions by using technology. The elec­tronic media is playing a vital role in shaping decisions. Technological­ly advanced countries prepare justifi­able grounds before implementing pre-planned actions. Coverage on tv or social media brings forth the requisite rationale before, during, and after any venture.

Thus, the above are the main determinants that play an essential part while devising Pakistan’s foreign policy.

The major challenge before an independent foreign policy of Pakistan

There is no doubt that Pakistan’s foreign policy is facing major challenges for instance, in the current scenario, it is visibly seen that a significant challenge to the foreign policy is the current National capacity. The impact of this weak national capacity is primiraly on the econmoy and politics of Pakistan. As it is known fact that Pakistan due to its weak economy is facing several challenges on national and international front. Our approach is security-centric rather economy centric. Apart from it, while making Pakistan’s foreign policy, traditional and outdated methods have been followed.

The major challange to the foreign policy of pakistan is that it is security oriented and this leads to the hostility and zero sum game.

Hassan Askari Rizvi
  • ✓Dependent foreign policy
  • ✓Economic Compulsion
  • ✓Political Instability
  • ✓Geo-strategic rather than geo-economic
  • ✓Security centric
  • ✓Lack of a balanced approach
  • A- Dependent foreign policy

Pakistan’s reliance on west presents a significant challenge to its foreign policy. In the past, Pakistan’s foreign policy fluctuated between the eastern and western blocs. Pakistan’s underdeveloped national capacity is to blame for everything. Pakistan must therefore eradicate the dependency syndrome.

  • B- Economic Compulsion

Economic pressure is another significant obstacle to Pakistan’s foreign policy, and it all stems from a lack of national capacity. Political instability exists in Pakistan as a result of economic difficulties. As is often said, politics and the economy are intertwined. The fall of one eventually brings about the fall of the other. Thus, due to its fragile economy, Pakistan’s national capacity is unable to develop an independent foreign policy as a result of political unrest.

  • C- Political Instability

Pakistan’s foreign policy has remained in limbo due to domestic power politics and the vested interests of politicians, which is a major challenge given its deteriorating national capacity. Foreign policy has frequently been turned into a roller coaster in various regimes by egotistical politicians. Former arch-rivals are now working together to run the business. Because of this, mixed priorities will inevitably result in muddled signals. This is a huge drawback of Pakistan’s national capacity, which cause hinderance before independent foreign policy.

  • D- Geo-strategic rather Geo-economic

Pakistan has historically been a security-driven state, which explains why Pakistan has placed more emphasis on state-building than nation-building. This is another significant obstacle to Pakistan’s foreign policy, this one brought on by a lack of national resources. However, shifting regional and global dynamics pose a number of difficult problems for our foreign policy decision-makers. The benefits of Pakistan’s geographic location and its significance to the entire world should perhaps be realized at this particular moment. Extreme caution should be exercised by those who make our foreign policy decisions.

  • E- Security centric

The fact that Pakistan’s foreign policy is primarily focused on security rather than the economy presents a significant obstacle. It is because Pakistan’s main rival, India, is located in her eastern region and constantly tries to undermine Pakistan. The incapacity of Pakistan as a nation is a key factor behind a security-focused foreign policy.

Pakistan’s obsession with security always been a hurdle in the cooperation in the region. South Asia has great influence to establish peace constituencise through economic cooperation.

Moeed Yusuf
  • F- Lack of a balanced approach

The lack of a balanced approach is another issue with Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan’s foreign policy primarily oscillates between the United States and China. Pakistan’s weak national capacity is the reason for its multiple axes in its foreign policy.

The dialemma with the pakistan;s foreign policy is to maintain balance posture between world power. History shows that Pakistan always negated balanced approach, be it with the USA and Russia or be it with the USA and China.

Ian Talbot

Viable Suggestions to Strengthen the Foreign Policy of Pakistan

Below are some options to keep the foreign policy in Pakistan on track:

  •  Self-reliance is the need of the hour; Pakistan must settle down its debt reduction so that interference from the donors can be curtailed in matters of Political and economic issues of the foreign policy of Pakistan.
  • Pakistan must keep amicable relations with its neighbouring countries, especially with India.
  • The solution to the Kashmir issue is not consisting of the policy of using force; even the policy has given a boost to Nuclearisation in the region.
  • For the solution to the Kashmir issue, Pakistan must strengthen itself. For example, China could not get its parts as Hong Kong, and Macao from Britain until it became politically strong and economically strong.

By following these options, the foreign policy of Pakistan will be on the right track.

Critical Analysis

In a critical diagnosis, there is no doubt that Pakistan’s foreign policy has faced many twists and turns in different eras and is still facing several challenges. All this is because of political turmoil and weak government institutions. Besides drumming about having an “independent” foreign policy, there is still no such thing as an “independent” foreign policy, as the interests of states are intriguingly intertwined. Pakistan has always managed to punch above its weight in the foreign policy domain, ranging from assisting Sino-US rapprochement in the Cold War to balancing between China and the US. Today, diplomacy is governed and effectively backed by the economy, as the potential leverage of bilateral and multilateral relationships lies in the economy. As a result, Pakistan will never be able to pursue an independent foreign policy.


From the above discussion on the determinants and challenges of foreign policy, it can be seen that many factors influence foreign policy. A particular element can gain more importance in space and time than other elements. In many situations, any ingredient or determinant may seem irrelevant. Again, that element can play a significant determining role due to the change of space or time. Also, some factors can influence joint foreign policymaking. Therefore, it is impossible to formulate a universal theory about the role of a particular determinant. In an increasingly multipolar world, Pakistan must also raise its diplomatic game by vigorous outreach to other key countries and actors beyond governments to secure its foreign policy goals.

No strategy is effective unless ends and means are aligned.

Maleeha Lodhi

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