A Review of Pakistan's Foreign Policy 1980-2004

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Formulation of foreign policy of a country is a complicated process. It implies consideration of long term and short term interests of a state. Policy at the same time is required to be dynamic, as it has to be modified or changed with the changing global scenario. Foreign policy of any country is based on numerous determinants that can be divided into variable and invariable factors. The invariable factors relate to immutable realities such as geography, history, ideology, and ethnic and cultural interests. Variable factors that influence foreign policy are government structures, composition of national elites, economic structures and public opinion. The personality and caliber of political leaders and the role of armed forces usually function as major determinants of a country’s external relations. Besides these immutable factors rooted in geography and history and the variable domestic factors mentioned earlier, there are the variables of the international environment, regional as well as global, that constantly need to be assessed in relation to national interests. A state must interact with other states, regional and international organizations in order to protect its vital national interest and most importantly, its sovereign national identity. The aim of its foreign policy must be so structured as to manipulate the external environment to the best advantage, reducing external pressures on national sovereignty and domestic policy, mobilizing international support on key issues, and creating conditions conducive for domestic economic growth.

The first fifty-two years of Pakistan’s existence have been unusually eventful, marked by many ups and downs for the country. It is difficult and sometimes impossible to predict what will be the end result of the policy chosen. Yet choices have to be made and decisions taken. Foreign policy is often considered the first line of defense of any country. This is probably even more pronounced in the case of Pakistan, which has been beset by a difficult security situation from the very beginning . Pakistan has perceived a threat to its security in the core region of South Asia. The prime determinant of foreign policy has been the security factor. Another important determinant in the formulation of the Foreign Policy of most third world countries is economic development. Pakistan is no exception to the trend of seeking outside aid to develop its economy.

On several crucial occasions, Pakistan’s policy-makers and indeed even the nation as a whole have allowed illusions to get the better of their judgment, resulting in disastrous consequences for the country. This has been a major flaw in the formulation of Pakistan’s foreign policy and unless the policy-makers draw the right lessons from historical experience, such unrealistic evaluations are capable of causing harm to the country. The other main weakness in the formulation of Pakistan’s foreign policy has been ‘ad hoc' or the tendency to take decisions to tide over an immediate exigency without any long-term planning.

Countries like USA, China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have influenced the foreign policy of Pakistan. It can be said that over the years, a degree of American influence on Pakistan can be traced in certain instances. Reviewing the past twenty four years of Pakistan’s foreign policy as objectively as possible, Pakistan’s foreign policy has been the desire to safeguard the country’s independence and territorial integrity. In addition to consideration of security, the other motivation of Pakistan’s foreign policy has revolved around its ideological yearnings, as also its economic interests. Pakistan’s foreign policies have reflected a certain ideological orientation. In the first place, the Pakistani people have always shown a genuine commitment to the concept of Islamic solidarity and have been keen...
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