WITH the country set to take a fresh start under a new government, foreign policy will be one of the key elements keeping the setup busy. There are a few things that the leaders will do well to consider in this regard. One such thing is the regional context, more specifically the prism through which we see our relations with India.

It is interesting that after gaining independence, Pakistan and India took a path that was quite different from the one preferred by China and Japan when they decided to forget the historical baggage of bilateral animosity, and established diplomatic ties in 1972. China and Japan have done really well, while Pakistan and India have struggled. The two outcomes owe their origins to the choices these countries made about how to deal with the ‘other’ while focussing on their own progress. In other words, this divergence can be attributed to the foreign policy choices made by these countries and the leaderships’ approach to national development.

In the case of Pakistan and India, foreign policy decisions have often been marred by regional conflicts, strained diplomatic relations and geopolitical instability. These factors have hindered their ability to fully capitalise on their potential for growth and development.

Conversely, both China and Japan have been pursuing foreign policies that have fostered economic growth, technological innovation and global influence. China and Japan have become strong economically. In fact, they are economic giants.

While China’s economy has grown monumentally, Japan has become one of the richest countries in the world. They did this by focussing on peace and making good plans for their country’s growth. They realised that fighting wars was meaningless.

The two countries were able to achieve the apparently unachievable targets of success in the critical fields of economy and technology by putting aside the war option.

In sharp contrast, unfortunately, Pakistan and India have failed to address critical issues. Even today, they have not made sincere efforts to resolve such issues. This has cost them both a lot of money, which could otherwise have been spent on development and progress.

The leadership of Pakistan and India should acknowledge the changing realities of our times, and, instead of clinging to traditional thinking, adopt a progressive and forward-looking outlook for the future. They should realise this fact that they have missed chances to do better, and that China and Japan have done much better.

They need to change their foreign policies to focus on talking and working together instead of mistrust and fighting. They also need to invest more in education and technology to help their countries grow. Besides, they can learn from China and Japan’s success by choosing peaceful and smart ways to work with each other. Eventually, this will help them and the whole region to have a better future.

Sajid Ali Bangash
Gujranwala

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2024

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