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PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif’s initial despatch to Pakistani diplomatic missions mapping out his government’s foreign policy priorities is a document shorn of ambition and short on vision. Essentially, Mr Sharif has said that his focus will be on economic diplomacy and on stabilising the region on the security front — with a few words, platitudes really, thrown in about relations with the usual countries foreign policy tends to focus on. Perhaps the less-than-invigorating despatch is rooted in Mr Sharif’s decision to, for now, keep the foreign minister’s portfolio with himself and so he would prefer to unveil his major foreign policy initiatives himself at a later date. However, to the extent that the initial despatch is indicative of Mr Sharif and his team’s foreign policy thinking, it appears that a return to first principles is required.

What does the world see first and foremost when it looks at Pakistan? In his note, Mr Sharif has talked about boosting trade, foreign investment and economic cooperation. He has also talked about promoting peace in the region, with specific mentions of the attempted reconciliation process in Afghanistan and the pursuit of “normalcy” in ties with India. All laudable goals, written in Foreign Office-speak, but they miss the point. When the world looks at Pakistan, rightly or wrongly, it tends to see a security threat emanating from this soil. China, the perennial ally, looks to some investment opportunities but always returns to the issue of Islamists traipsing up the Karakoram Highway and into western China, where the rising power’s Muslim population is located. Afghanistan sees a role for Pakistan in the Afghan reconciliation process — largely because it’s tied to its fundamental complaint of Afghan Taliban sanctuaries on this side of the border. India, the central focus of the security state here, worries about another Mumbai, in addition to the original rivalry over Kashmir. The US worries about another 9/11, this time traced back to our tribal areas; the UK fears another 7/7-type attack linked back to Pakistan. Russia worries about Islamist ingress into its zone of influence in Central Asia. The list goes on.

The point is that Pakistan has a perception, reality and credibility problem: we have yet to convince the world that we are not a threat to ourselves and it. Until that changes, it will taint every aspect of Pakistan’s foreign policy. While Pakistanis fret over external violations of our sovereignty by external actors, the outside world wonders why we are unable to take on the threat within and re-establish the state’s writ.

Comments (19) Closed

iftekhar hussain Jun 08, 2013 11:37pm

Which powers you are talking about? The powers of the drones. Mr. Editorial, you can never ever satisfy the West, till your name is a Muslim one and you are a practicing Muslim. Donot believe me. What happened to Shahrukh Khan at the American Airport, or even Azam Khan or Even Zakir Naik. I am not a fundamentalist Muslim. I love songs and Madonna but truth is truth. Go on writing such editorials for another 66 years. It will all be the same. Write it.

Ahmed Jun 08, 2013 08:21pm
Nawaz Sharif's foreign policy vision goes to the roots of the problems facing Pakistan. That is, it recognizes that the root of insecurity in Pakistan is not "evil designs" of "foreign powers" (as the self-serving Pakistani generals have led Pakistanis to believe) but on massive poverty. Therefore, contrary to the solution presented in this editorial (i.e. to continue trying to assure the world that Pakistan is not a haven for international terrorism), by focussing on economic progress this policy is aimed at drying up the roots of terrorism (international as well as sectarian) which, like it or not, has plagued Pakistan for decades.
S.S.VERMA Jun 08, 2013 06:04am
In other words the Foreign Policy Vison is typical Nawaz Sharif!
ruffeek Jun 08, 2013 07:28am
Concise, and extremely well-written. Now if only our government's policy document could emulate the style and content, and understand the real message here.
Irrfaan Akhtaar Jun 08, 2013 08:36am
the world is conspiring against us we pakistanis should continue our business
Aamir Jun 08, 2013 08:55am
couldn't agree more.
Tariq Jun 08, 2013 10:39am
An excellent narrative of the ground realities of what should have been the official governments basic grasp on the priorities that our nations' mountain of challenges be it from the "home or foreign" perspective/perception.
Iftikhar Husain Jun 08, 2013 11:29am
His brother kept few ministries for himself so he will keep important ministries for himself.
Shahbuddin Jun 09, 2013 03:20pm
A country where lawyers pour roses on murders, innocents arrested on false charges of blasphemy, no go areas even for army, madrassas preach hate, text books teach lies, it is very difficult for Nawaz Sheriff to set the nation on the right path and foreign policy.
Syed Asad Jun 09, 2013 12:52pm
for example which attacks did emanate from Pakistan?
Agha Ata Jun 08, 2013 01:06pm
Unless Taliban cease to exist as a threat to any human life outside or within Pakistan, the world is not going to feel safe dealing with us on long terms policies.
K.K. Fakhta Jun 08, 2013 01:32pm
Very well written. One point that the government can do immediately to remove the irritant in the tribal areas is to stop the drones from taking off from Pakistan territory. According to Bob Woodward's book "Obama's wars" the drones actually fly from "secret" 0local airbases within Pakistan. Now we all know that the PPP government stopped this from happening from the Jacobabad airbase which had been leased to Abu Dhabi who had in turn allowed the US to establish a drone base there. However, the understanding is that there are other airbases within the country which are used to launch drone strikes. Now that there is a new "Sherrif "in town, the new Government should ensure that no such activity takes place from within Pakistan. You do not need to shoot down the drones as Imran Khan says, all you need to do is stop them from getting launched from your own soil.
NASAH (USA) Jun 09, 2013 12:16pm
The outside world has not seen in Nawaz Sharif moves any indication -- as yet -- how he is going to deal with the militants in general and TPP in particular to make Pakistan a secure place for investments. Even good neighborly relations depend on how militancy is being handled. In terms of priorities of economic growth -- curbing militancy is as important as providing steady electricity.
akhter husain Jun 08, 2013 02:11pm
A good article that gives some sensible advice.Though I think that the ideas, when one is not in government, is one thing which may change when the policy papers are read thoroughly.Mr Nawaz Shareef may be given some before expecting any thing most suited for the country,
Bubba Jun 08, 2013 02:37pm
"The point is that Pakistan has a perception, reality and credibility problem: we have yet to convince the world that we are not a threat to ourselves and it. Until that changes, it will taint every aspect of Pakistan
Oracle Jun 08, 2013 03:14pm
if thats how the world looks at us then why donrt we take measures to redress the situation.but unfortunately the decision on key foriegn policy issues is taken outside the confines of the foreign ministry by people who have limited education, limited vision, limited experience and exposure necessary for formulatinfg policy on such complex issues.
Basav Jun 09, 2013 02:28pm
Which did not ?!.
Ahmed Shah Jun 09, 2013 03:52am
Most attacks did emanate from Pakistan and there are terrorist sanctuaries. With all of these still running, let go of others,how ru even convinced ur not a threat to the world.
pathanoo Jun 09, 2013 01:48am
Author's last paragraph is the essence of Pakistan's problem. Till pakistan resolves it; it will be a pariah nation.