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Tyranny of power asymmetry

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PAKISTAN’S foreign policy objectives have been remarkably consistent over the years. They have principally been shaped by its geostrategic location in a tough neighbourhood which imposed heavy security burdens on the country. This explains why security concerns — given Pakistan’s enduring quest for security — had such a dominant influence on the evolution of its foreign policy. The sweep of the country’s foreign policy over the decades also reveals a complex interplay between internal and external factors, and between domestic goals and an ever-changing international environment.

Of course, big power interests in the region had a major impact on policy, intersecting with elite interests to sometimes complicate if not aggravate Pakistan’s challenges. An unedifying aspect of this was a mindset of dependence fostered among officials during prolonged periods of the country’s alignments. This dependence proved to be habit forming. Reliance on external financial assistance — as a consequence of these alignments — created a perverse incentive for urgent economic reform and serious domestic resource mobilisation. It also encouraged ruling elites to constantly look outside to address financial deficits and other sources of internal vulnerabilities, even see outsiders as catalytic agents to promote development and solve problems at home.

Abdul Sattar’s book Pakistan’s Foreign Policy 1947-2019, whose fifth edition has been published this year, does not examine this linkage between the internal and external and how they have been intertwined in such a consequential way. But it offers a useful beginner’s guide to the many twists and turns of foreign policy.........

© Dawn

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