VIEW: Pakistan to look eastwards —Mohammad Jamil - Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Pakistan should review its foreign policy in accordance with the guidelines provided in the constitution, especially when, after the end of the Cold War, the US and the west have changed their priorities

It appears that there is a lack of coordination between President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The president stands for durable strategic partnership with the US, the foreign minister vows to look eastwards. Addressing the joint celebration for the Chinese Spring Festival co-organised by the foreign office and Chinese embassy, Foreign Minister Qureshi said, “Pakistan had been looking towards the west in the past but the time has come to divert its attention to the East.” Being a very important statement, it should have made headlines but media gurus did not consider it worthwhile for reasons only known to them. On the other hand, President Asif Ali Zardari, while talking to the senior advisor to the US, said Pakistan values a long-term, multifaceted and durable strategic partnership with the US based on mutual trust and respect. The US has betrayed Pakistan many a time despite being its ally for the last six decades. It has to be mentioned that the US had stopped military aid to Pakistan after the 1965 war, and its role in the 1971 war is an open secret.

One does not need to be a foreign policy expert to understand that the objective of foreign policy for any country is to have cordial relations with all countries of the world, especially neighbouring countries, with a view to safeguarding national security and independence. On the basis of this benchmark, our foreign policy has been a dismal failure. Because of the incompetence of our leadership, the position today is that the US, western countries and Afghanistan blame Pakistan for providing safe havens to Taliban and al Qaeda operatives. Pakistan faced a similar situation during the Cold War era. Arab countries like Egypt, Syria and Libya were unhappy with Pakistan because of its being in the western camp and doing its bidding; the newly independent and non-aligned nations were suspicious of our role for the same reason, and the socialist bloc considered Pakistan its enemy. However, the US-led western powers thought of Pakistan as no more than a pawn on their international political chessboard.

The threat to Pakistan’s security from India might have been a cogent and genuine reason for joining the Baghdad Pact, CENTO and SEATO, and entering into bilateral agreements with the US, but the prospects to achieve this objective were obscured with the ‘clause’ that the US and western countries would help Pakistan only in case of communist aggression, which was never made public. The people of Pakistan, however, understood the meaninglessness of these pacts when, during two wars with India in 1965 and 1971, our allies became ‘non-aligned’, and instead of helping Pakistan they stopped not only military but also economic aid to Pakistan. Till the late 1980s, the US and the west conveyed the impression that Pakistan’s survival was the cornerstone of their policy, but once they achieved their objective of pushing the Soviet troops out of Afghanistan, they ditched Pakistan. They never exerted pressure on India to implement the UN Security Council resolutions that gave the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination through a plebiscite under the aegis of the UN either to join India or Pakistan.

It would be appropriate to take a look at the history of the former Soviet Union’s relations with Pakistan. Pakistan’s relations became strained after the US spy plane U-2 took off from the Badaber base. Prior to that, in 1949, former Soviet supreme leader Marshal Joseph Stalin was reported to have extended an invitation to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to visit Moscow through Pakistan’s ambassador in Iran. However, the bureaucracy had manoeuvred to get an invitation from US President Harry S Truman to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to pay an official visit to the US in May 1950. It has to be mentioned that the Soviet Union had not used its veto power when the UN passed the resolution on Kashmir, giving the people of Kashmir the right to decide whether to join India or Pakistan through a plebiscite. It used the veto only after the U-2 incident. Khrushchev had also threatened Pakistan with dire consequences. Since Pakistan remained committed to the west to work as a bulwark against communism, the USSR developed very close relations with India and signed a friendship treaty, which, in fact, was a defence treaty. It was in this backdrop that India had the Soviet Union’s blessings when it played a pivotal role in the dismemberment of Pakistan.

According to declassified information published after 30 years, it was shocking to note that the US was not averse to the separation of former East Pakistan but did not agree with the way it was done. If a country has friends like the US, it does not need enemies. Pakistan should review its foreign policy in accordance with the guidelines provided in the constitution, especially when, after the end of the Cold War, the US and the west have changed their priorities. As stated earlier, the rift between the former Soviet Union and Pakistan developed after the U-2 spy plane incident that occurred during the Cold War on May 1, 1960 (during the presidency of Dwight D Eisenhower). The U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union. At first, the US government denied the plane’s purpose and mission, but was forced to admit its role as a covert surveillance aircraft when the Soviet government produced its remains (largely intact) and surviving pilot, Francis Gary Powers.

Former Pakistani Ambassador in Moscow, Jamsheed Marker, wrote in his book that during President Ayub Khan’s visit to the Soviet Union to attend a conference in Tashkent in 1966, Kosygin had asked Ayub Khan to wind up the Badaber American base. Ayub Khan assured him that the lease was about to expire and it would not be extended thereafter. It is unfortunate that barring a few honourable exceptions, Pakistan has not been lucky enough to have visionary leadership after the sad demise of the Quaid-e-Azam, and those who had opposed Pakistan, in cahoots with the bureaucracy - trained to serve their masters - took decisions that caused Pakistan an irreparable loss in the form of the breakup of the motherland. Our inept leadership could not visualise the importance of geopolitical location, and bartered away our sovereignty by becoming a camp follower of the west. They failed to frame economic policies that could have ensured socio-economic justice and made Pakistan a self-reliant country. It was because of their failure that a resourceful country remained dependent on the US and the west, and it was because of the dependency syndrome that Pakistan was coerced into joining the war on terror, and earlier to become the camp follower of the west. Pakistan should not become part of the big power rivalry, and must develop good relations with Russia as well.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at

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