The contemporary world order is in a painful transition from unipolarity to multipolarity. It is facing an unprecedented degree of dislocation in the contemporary situation since its inception after WWII. The foreign policy-discourse at international level is observing two-predominant patterns in response to this abnormal-situation (dislocation), which can best be subsumed in an agreement with Pentagon’s assessment: VUCA (Volatile-Uncertain-Chaotic-Ambiguous). These two patterns could be subsumed in a bifurcation, namely: resistance and revision. As a collective response to this rupture/dislocation in the world order, the foreign policies of different states are somewhat disjointed about their previous degrees of predictability and stability. These confused foreign policies are in the attempt of adjustment about this dislocation.
The response of the first category to this VUCA/dislocation in the unipolar world is somewhat closer to the revisionist-tendencies in the foreign policy discourse. The supposed upholders of the unipolar world order are engaged in a sustained effort to repair the exterior fissures of this rupture in the unipolarity of the world order. The US is leading this effort with the backing of its traditional allies such as the UK and to a certain extent their western allies. Their response to this dislocation lies in their strenuous efforts ranging from diplomacy to coercive methods along with the rejuvenation of the Transatlantic-Alliances.
Conversely, the historically peripheral states to this unipolar world order are responding to this situation with resistance against the regressive attempts to repair the unipolarity in world order which in return they collectively seek to replace with multipolarity. In this category, there are states who are responding with sustained resistance. Russia and China are leading this camp along with some other states. The Russian response to this situation is a sort of invocation of the aspirations of ‘Soviet-Russia,’ and subsequently, China has responded to this dislocation with OBOR initiative.
These two responses namely: revision/repair and resist are quite central to make sense of the state of different foreign policies in different regions in the world. Therefore, the current situation of the world order is closer to a stalemate – which marks a phase in the world order somewhere in-between unipolarity and multipolarity.
Now, the question is how Pakistan’s foreign policy is responding to this rupture/dislocation in world order? What are the predominant features of this response of Pakistani foreign policy? How approaching through this response helps to understand the nature of the relationship between Pakistan and its neighbors?
Hegemony has been the central hallmark of the unipolar world order since its emergence after WWII. Historically, Pakistani foreign policy has never been sovereign even its degree of autonomy is also somewhat compromising which is insufficient to secure the primary objectives of national interest. This paralyzing effect resulted from its depleted independence has fundamentally reduced the options of flexibility and maneuvering in the international arena to optimize certain goals of the national interest of Pakistan.
Leaving aside this historical baggage of depleted autonomy, the current discourse of Pakistani foreign policy could be evaluated by deciphering its response to dislocation in the unipolar world order. A response presupposes a clear comprehension of a problem. The unclear and incoherent understanding and the subsequent confused response of the Pakistani foreign policy is serious to the degree where policy is somehow missing in the Pakistan foreign policy. The problem is international, but the answer is local. To mark this un-clarity and the subsequent confuse, incoherent response to this major shift in world-order, Pakistan’s recent management of its relations with its core neighbors have exposed a situation of perpetual crises which has resulted from the transformative phase in the world order. To substantiate this argument and highlight the problem let us take into account the current state of Indo-Pak and Sino-Pakistan relations.
Indo-Pak relations are in a very radical shift. Recent ultra-symbolic maneuverings in Indian foreign policy and its corresponding translation in practice could be construed as an attempt to evaporate the hitherto cliché of Pakistan-centric Indian foreign policy. All these symbolic and otherwise assertions in Indian foreign policy in recent months could be subsumed under the element of transcendence: the attempt on India’s part to envision and operationalize a discourse of Indian foreign policy which does not take into consideration Pakistan to the degree it used to do in the past. Therefore, this transcendental aspect of Indian foreign policy is a well-developed articulated design for the regional hegemony formulated in response to the transformation in the world order. The contemporary contrasting salient feature between Indian and Pakistan foreign policy is that India has demonstrated exceptional agility to understand and subsequently respond to the dislocation in the unipolar world order. India’s response like always is complicated at the surface but extremely sophisticated in its subsequent operational unfolding. It has convinced the US to ‘outsource’ her hegemonic project in South Asia to India in return for India’s ambiguous support for the US hegemonic containing agendas against China. This outsourcing of ‘influence’ (hegemony) in South Asia by the US to India has symptomatically in return multiplied the US’s pressure on Pakistan. Therefore, Indian response to this dislocation in word order is coherent and sophisticated, unlike Pakistan which has not been able to re-adjust its foreign policy priorities in response to the transformative world-order.
The failure on the part of the policymakers to respond to the transformative world order at an appropriate time inevitably exposed the country to an unexpected heat and pressure from the US and the latest Indian foreign policy developments. Such a volatile situation demanded a supplementary equivalently capable player like the previous hegemon the US to bring relative calm to preserve the depleted existence of the country. In other words, found dumbfounded the policymakers have been attempting to find an alternative full-spectrum reliance ally since their relations with the US deteriorated, which they found in Chinese case. In such an arrangement with China, whose’ flagship initiative is CPEC; there exists profound underneath misunderstanding. The Pakistani side is taking this bilateral relationship in absolute-terms wherein China is supposed to provide the solutions virtually for all major issues. Keeping in view the colonial and neo-colonial past of Pakistan, the policymakers are subconsciously inviting/expecting a good hegemonic role from China which it has up to this point discourteously declined. Conversely, Chinese treat the bilateral relationship with Pakistan in relative terms. This profound difference in understating of the nature of the bilateral Sino-Pakistan relationship occasionally comes at the surface in surprises, especially for Pakistani side. Recently, the incident of placing Pakistan on FATF list is one example of it.
Therefore, the unclear understating of the nature of the transforming world-order and the subsequent incoherent response has engendered and subsequently exposed crises like the situation in Pakistan foreign policy. This situation has impacted the nature of the relationship between Pakistan and its different important neighboring states.