Since the introduction and practice of modern international system, states tend to shape and reshape policies under the regional or international settings. There is no permanent friend, neither foe in contemporary world. It is however, a country’s geographical location and strategic significance that makes it attractive or non-attractive. A state, despite its internal incompetency and inadequacy can still matter for many if it has greater magnetism for regional or extra-regional players. Pakistan fits well for this definition. On the one hand it is dealing with decades long home grown malfunctions like corruption, bad governance, load shedding, militancy and political hassles but on the contrary it holds strategic geography with plenty of ingredients to appeal global powers.
In the past few years, rumors have been roaming about Islamabad’s diplomatic failure and that its foreign policy is nothing but a disaster. The United States’ Indian romance where it not only signed several economic ventures but also concluded defense agreements (e.g. LEMO 2016, Indo-US Nuclear Deal 2008), thus hinting a shift in South Asian policy and a possible good bye to Pakistan. Moreover, Washington’s ‘do more’ demand has again surfaced and its discomfort with Islamabad is evident from the cutting in military aid (Coalition Support Fund) and refusal of giving subsidy in the purchase of F-16 aircrafts. The US has also been employing all sorts of pressure on Pakistan after the Mumbai Attacks of 2008 and Uri Attack of 2016 and demanded a swift yet subtle Pakistani response of cooperation with India in hunting down offenders of these incidents.
The other signs of isolation stemmed from the Islamic countries e.g. Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia kept cordial connections with Pakistan in times of trials and have been lending hands in tackling financial woes and in determining political strife sporadically. However, since Pakistan opted to be neutral in Yemen war, Saudis have found it hard to digest. Although there was no startling response from Riyadh yet the level of bilateral engagements have shrunk. Earlier this year Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud warmly welcomed Prime Minister Modi and showed a possible tilt towards New Delhi and against traditional ally Pakistan. Non-payment of dues and detention of thousands of Pakistani laborers in Saudi Arabia can also be seen as a Saudi discomposure with Islamabad.
Iran may not be as valuable or contributor to Pakistan but still is significant since it shares long border with Pakistan. Tehran, in its latest bid to come back to international arena after the successful conclusion of Nuclear Deal with West, is employing all obtainable means for fostering regional trade. For this, Iran and India signed a US$ 500 agreement by which both will work in the assemblage of Chabahar port of Iran. Chabahar is not as cherished as Gwadar port of Pakistan but it still can become a major competitor to Pakistani aspirations of taking lead in regional trade route provider.
Pakistan is host to 3 million Afghan refugees and it recently extended the stay of refugees until December 2017. Additionally, Islamabad paves way for possible political solution of the Afghan imbroglio but the current President Ashraf Ghani’s is eager to establish more affable terms with New Delhi. Indian aid to Afghanistan has surpassed US$ 2 billion together with defensive agreements.
Aforementioned picture generally makes it easy to contemplate that Pakistan is really facing international isolation. However, last one month witnessed some significant developments that have shunned the notion of Islamabad’s isolation to a considerable extent. The most striking development was the first ever Pak-Russia military drill which commenced in Pakistani territory just when Indo-Pak tensions are on the rise. Russian troops landed in Pakistan despite repeated propaganda from Indian side that Moscow has cancelled joint exercises in a bid to please India. This is a major innovation in Islamabad’s Moscow connection in a time when Washington’s allegiance with India is fostering expeditiously. This joint drill seems to be a continuation of Pak-Russia military acquaintances that are growing since the visit of Russian Army Chief General Vladimir V Chirkin to Pakistan in 2013 and Naval Commander Admiral Viktor V Chirkov in 2014.
China which always keeps compassionate hand towards Pakistan has come to revamp feeble Pakistani economy with the injection of US$ 51 billion through China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC). Beijing is not only empowering Islamabad to make this joint venture materialize despite some political hassles and security issues but it equally supporting Pakistani defence narrative. Twice in 2016 that China has veto the Indian resolution in UN of labeling Pakistani citizen Massod Azhar a terrorist which is an endorsement to Pakistani stance and a serious blow to New Delhi. Additionally, Beijing felt it inevitable to plunge in the burgeoning Indo-Pak tensions after Uri Attack and emphasized on the need to start dialogue.
After the Indian nose dive to invest greatly in Chabahar, there was much uproar in Pakistan. Many felt that this strategic and economic move of New Delhi could really wield pressure on Pakistan from the south-western border. Indo-Iran joint endeavor is materializing but instantaneously a surprising development arisen when Tehran exhibited its inclination to be partaker in CPEC. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of UNGA meeting of 2016 met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and expressed Iranian desire to be part of CPEC. Last week, Consul General of Iran Mohammad Hossein Bani Assadi also said “CPEC is a great economic development project and Iran wants to be part of it”.
The most conspicuous socket where Islamabad should really feel itself in hot waters is Afghanistan with whom it is not esteeming cordial business in the recent past. Moreover, Indian active diplomatic, economic and lately defensive maneuverings inside Afghanistan put Pakistan on an irritating point. However, since Afghanistan has not been able to tackle internal political strife, Taliban led militancy and weaker economic fabric; it actually is not in a position to really intimidate Pakistan. Despite recipient of substantial economic aid from India and international community, Afghanistan in many ways is still dependent on Pakistan for smooth economic going.
It may be an Indian desire to isolate Islamabad (as also was expressed by Nerendra Modi) but Pakistan is not completely out of the scene, neither regionally nor internationally. In fact, current government has put the country back on track; economically and on foreign front likewise. Pakistan already relishes plenty of ingredients that make it valuable state in the world and now when government has brought in huge Chinese investment and genial ties with Russia, military is also wiping out decades old militancy from every nook and corner. This combination of vibrant civil-military efforts is just the dawn of bright future.