In 2022, Pakistan’s foreign policy remained a complex and multi-faceted issue that continued to face significant challenges from various quarters.
Throughout the year, the government of Pakistan engaged in both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy with members of the international community, striving to advance its national interests and goals.
Despite several obstacles, Pakistan managed to secure many essential gains in its foreign policy endeavors. However, these successes were also offset by a range of losses as the country struggled to navigate the shifting currents of global affairs.
In order to gain a deeper understanding of the major foreign policy initiatives, successes, and challenges that Pakistan faced in 2022, it is helpful to examine the various factors that influenced its foreign engagement.
These factors include domestic and international politics, economic conditions, and geopolitical dynamics, among others.
By exploring these elements in greater depth, we can gain a more comprehensive view of the landscape of Pakistani foreign policy in 2022 and consider what lessons may be drawn from this experience for future policy planning.
The internal issues of Pakistan are creating hurdles though it needs to use them as opportunities but lacks focus and priorities. The internal political volatility affected the foreign policy priorities of Pakistan.
The foreign policy pursuits have been tainted with animosity between India and Pakistan, and Afghan irredentism, though Pakistan with its diplomatic skills and clout has given preference to some foreign policy objectives.
Pakistan’s Global Engagements
Engagements with Russia
Former Prime Minister, Imran Khan visited Russia to pursue his policy for diversifying diplomatic relations and exploring new avenues of cooperation, in the first quarter of 2022.
The agenda behind the visit was focused on energy security, infrastructure development, and security stability in Afghanistan.
“We went there because we have to import 2 million tons of wheat from Russia. Secondly, we have signed agreements with them to import natural gas because Pakistan’s gas reserves are depleting,” Khan said.
The ties of Islamabad with Moscow have been restored in recent years. However, the two countries routinely hold joint military exercises and are working to deepen energy cooperation.
After the removal of Khan, Shahbaz Sharif has taken the lead, in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), meeting Pakistan & Russia vowed to keep engagements. Especially, engagements over the natural gas supply, oil trade, and wheat.
President Putin stated that Russian natural gas for Pakistan was a possibility to be explored, with some infrastructure already in place to permit such supply. The considerable Russian gas has enormous befits for Pakistan.
The Russian President also stated, that the issue is about pipeline gas supplies from Russia to Pakistan, which is also possible.
This means part of the infrastructure has already been created i.e.between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The considerable gas pipeline would enable Pakistan to meet its gas shortages with an effective cost strategy.
This strategy would help in mitigating price inflation as well. This has been considered a ‘breakthrough’ among Pakistan-Russia strategic engagements.
Nevertheless, this strategic posture would also create economic stability as it involves enormous capital investments. Pakistani leaders and policy analysts perceive this engagement as a chance to diversify Pakistan’s reliance on US and China.
The progress on this policy pursuit is little though. Analysts and critics have a critical view of this strategic engagement because of Russia’s aggressive involvement in Ukraine.
Moreover, there is a need for critical stability in Afghanistan if Pakistan needs the realization of the pipeline. It involves enormous capital investments.
Pakistani leaders and policy analysts perceive this engagement as a chance to diversify Pakistan’s reliance on US and China.
Engagement with European Union (EU)
In 2022, the 12th European Union (EU) – Pakistan Joint Commission took place in Islamabad. The aim behind this is to exchange views on all areas of cooperation between the EU and Pakistan.
The EU expressed solidarity with the people of Pakistan that are affected by climate-induced floods. EU also shows concerns that they would help Pakistan to recover from these difficult times.
In return, Pakistan expressed appreciation for the EU’s solidarity and concerns. EU and its member states mobilized funds of EUR 123 million. The fund would be used to provide assistance to relief-stricken areas.
However, Pakistan asked for additional assistance for the rebuilding and restructuring of the flood-ridden areas. The two sides agreed to cooperate on climate change issues and challenges.
Moreover, the Joint Commission was briefed about the outcomes of the Sub-Group meeting on Democracy, Governance, the Rule of Law, and Human Rights.
Further discussions were made on civil and political rights, the rights of persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups, and freedom of religion or belief, including concerns about anti-Muslim hatred.
It also discussed the role of civil society organizations, freedom of expression and opinion, media freedom, and the fight against disinformation.
Pakistan was also informed about steps to strengthen access to justice and reforms related to the application of the death penalty.
The legislation on the protection of women’s and children’s rights, the protection of transgender persons, as well as the protection of journalists by Pakistan was recognized by the EU.
Both sides also discussed legislative proposals which include the anti-torture bill and the bill on enforced disappearances. Similarly, they also discussed the electoral reforms process including recommendations made by the 2018 Electoral Observation Mission.
In trade-related bilateralism, Pakistan and the EU discussed concerns over limited economic exchanges. The trade between the two sides remained at only EUR 12.2 billion in 2021.
The EU stressed the effective implementation of the 27 international conventions related to GSP+. Discourses were also exchanged on issues of regional and global importance such as Afghanistan, Indian-held Kashmir, and Ukraine.
Pakistan and the EU stressed focusing on peaceful resolutions of all issues in accordance with the principles of international law and the UN Charter.
Engagement with the US
The new Foreign Minister has made several visits to the United States to thaw the already frosted ties between Pakistan and the US.
Pakistan and US have vowed to make future engagements over different issues such as climate change, security in Afghanistan, and stance over India and Kashmir issues.
US investors have shown a willingness to pursue investment and business in Pakistan, especially in the agriculture and industrial sector. Investors are concerned about ease of doing business, security, and currency stability.
US and Pakistan also built a consensus on working together on climate change and would lay a framework for other areas of cooperation moving forward.
Engagement over Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
Pakistan has succeeded in removing of FATF list in 2022 from the ‘terrorism’ list, it was on a ‘grey list’ of countries considered at high risk of money laundering and ‘terrorism’ financing since 2018.
The decision to remove came at a time when Pakistan’s credibility on the global market has taken a pounding because of its precarious economic situation. This happened after four years of continuous efforts by the government and diplomatic clout.
The FATF President T Raja Kumar said, “Pakistan had addressed technical deficiencies to meet the commitments of its action plans.”
The team of FATF visited to observe the required changes and progress, the visit was declared a success and in a subsequent meeting, Pakistan was removed from the list.
“Pakistan exiting the FATF grey list is a vindication of our determined and sustained efforts over the years. I would like to congratulate our civil & military leadership as well as all institutions whose hard work led to today’s success,” Prime Minster Shahbaz Sharif lauded the decision.
The action-agenda was consisting of 27 action points that are related to money laundering, terrorist financing, and action against armed groups and individuals.
However, Pakistan is again facing a renewed wave of terrorist activities that would point a question over the 27-action agenda presented by the FATF. Moreover, in the list corruption index, Pakistan reached 140 in 2022 as compared to 132 in 2021.
Engagement with World Community over Geneva Conference
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Pakistan have bilaterally come together to arrange an international conference. The conference is titled ‘International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan 2023.’
The main agenda behind the conference was dialogue and cooperation on the climate issues of Pakistan, especially on the floods of 2022.
The conference has brought together the international community to pledge support for the flood-affected population. The conference was attended by policy analysts, bureaucrats, government officials, civil society, and private organizations.
According to the UN, Pakistan experienced horrific floods in 2022 that left 15,000 people dead and approximately 8 million in displacement.
Moreover, floods have destroyed highways, bridges, and agricultural lands. This has also landed 9 million people in poverty. The total damage accounts for more than $30 billion.
During the conference, the delegations announced their solidarity and commitment. The world community has pledged to provide $9 billion in support to mitigate flood effects.
The world community has expressed support for resilience recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. The conference has strategized the action plan for Pakistan’s resilience recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction.
According to the framework presented Pakistan will achieve resilience recovery with the implementation of the following elements. The conference was attended by 44 countries.
The United States has announced $100 million, and Saudi Arabia had pledged $1 billion. Germany has announced $88 million, China $100 million, and Japan $77 million.
Islamic Development Bank (IDP), at $4.2 billion; the World Bank (WB), at $2 billion; the Asian Development Bank (ADB), at $1.5 billion and European Union (EU) pledged $93 million.
Engagement over COP 27 Egypt
The international community gathered in 2022 in Egypt for the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference (COP27). The agenda behind the conference was to discuss climate change including loss and damage, climate finance, adaptation, and mitigation.
At this conference, a fund was made for Pakistan to address loss and damage caused by climate-induced disasters. The decision was taken in Sharm-El-Sheikh (Egypt) considered a momentous achievement for Pakistan.
Climate change affected Pakistan in the shape of floods that resulted in losses and damages of over US$ 30 billion refocused global attention towards this critical issue. Group of 77 and China also pledged support to Pakistan.
A fund named “Fund for Loss and Damage” was established to mitigate losses and damages in developing countries. Pakistan will benefit from this fund.
Issues in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy
The foreign policy of Pakistan was characterized by negative trends in the year 2022 though it occupied some positive space. Positive space was discussed in the engagements Pakistan made with the regional and international world.
Pakistan is facing economic and security-based insecurities, as the ouster of the government of PTI created political instability and a lack of investment in the economic realm. These internal factors affected the foreign policy of Pakistan.
Regionally, the ceased military engagement of the US in Pakistan created spaces for instability, chaos, and anarchy.
The government of the Taliban is a defacto that is not recognized by the world. The biased policies of the Taliban create an increase a kind of instability.
The Taliban government is creating cleavages, polarization, and volatility. That instability gave the pretext to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in Pakistan and slowly they are increasing their footholds through terrorist activities.
On the Eastern side, Pakistan is concerned with the increased populism of the Hindutva narrative though it is not affecting Pakistan directly it is a threat. The Indian policies of exclusionism are creating issues for Indian Muslims and especially Kashmiri Muslims.
Due to the principal stance on Kashmir Pakistan is unable to resume and restore its bilateral relations with India.
Moreover, in the military paradigm, India is consistently modernizing its capabilities such as acquired, anti-ballistic missile systems, MIRV, hyper sonics, weaponized drones, and augmented sea-based capabilities.
This is creating a security dilemma for Pakistan and compelling it to increase its relative power against India, which calls for modernization in the military realm.
Modernization means more budget and Pakistan is not in a position to take optimal decisions concerning the economy due to the compulsions of the International Monetary Fund’s programme.
On the southern side, the internal chaotic situation of freedom of speech, and the rights of women in Iran is also a source of concern for Pakistan.
The world is already disconnected from Iran over the issue of the Iranian Nuclear Programme. It is now concerned about the violations of human rights in Iran. More instability in Iran could trigger a chain of events that could affect Pakistan, too.
Political instability and economic insecurity are also a threat to the implementation of CPEC in its full essence. Nevertheless, China reaffirmed its commitments to Pakistan again and again but Pakistan needs to make its house in order.
In the recovery and reconstruction process of the flood-affected areas, Pakistan needs to recognize the reality that although the Geneva Conference the world pledged to help, but with some conditions.
There occurred a deep mistrust between the world community and Pakistan because of the Corruption Index, it is not considered a reliable country.
Internally, the continuous struggle for power in political parties and the government and the disinterest of recent government in elections is a serious concern. Elections need time to decrease mistrust in the world community.
Pakistan needs to understand that foreign policy is a behavioral pattern that the states adopt to conduct their diplomatic relations with other states in the global system.
This policy, which is designed & redesigned by a process consisting of various interrelated stages, is formulated based on various factors including the country’s geographical location, its human resource, its economy, & above all, well-defined national interests.
Pakistan needs to eliminate the element of conservatism from foreign policy. There is a dire need to open up and devise the contours of foreign policy according to the current international paradigm.
It should advance its diplomatic relationships solely based on its interests and shun the illogical rhetoric of religious affinity.
Pakistan must resume its economic relations with India, its irredentist stance over the Kashmir issue, which it has not resolved for over 75 years would not provide any benefits. There is a need to resume all kinds of diplomatic channels with India.
The role of national power, the character of states, and their relationship with the domestic environment, overlooking any systemic factors or sources of explanations, reductionist explanations, and normative and moral precepts on statesmanship and leadership are not rare.
In the above-given theoretical perspective, Islamabad needs to design its foreign policy according to the changing regional and global dynamics.
According to foreign policy experts, Pakistan needs smart diplomacy to deal with India, Iran, and Afghanistan as well as to cope with the current trouble in its relations with the US.
Smart diplomacy is striking a balance and seeking alternative ways to deal with a situation when one option does not offer a credible opportunity.
The situation doesn’t change on its own; it is sought through different diplomatic options to create space. If India has a secured trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia through Iran, Pakistan should not view this as a threat.
Instead, it should take a practical step to obtain gas & electricity from Iran. If this economic connection is built, Iran will have a greater interest in cultivating Pakistan because this economic relationship will not require the use of a land route of a third country.
Foreign policy means the array of the actions taken and strategies pursued by a given state toward other external states or actors in the system which, tightly or loosely, are related to it.
Consequently, foreign policy analysis means an inquiry into the causes which led the state to a failed foreign policy. There is a need for a multi-aligned foreign policy focused primarily on economic development not heavily relying on geopolitics.
The elected government and the Opposition should rise above all their differences and huddle together to formulate a ‘Charter of Foreign Policy’ outlining the short, medium, and long-term foreign policy objectives to be achieved under the vigil of the Parliamentary Joint Committee.
Civilian supremacy will ensure the promotion of national interests while functioning within the framework of accountability and transparency.
The institutions may now take a back seat. They should undertake their responsibilities within the ambit of the Constitution.
The dominance of one institution over others becomes a liability rather than an asset eventually. The track record of civilian rules in Pakistan for defending and promoting territorial integrity is impeccable.
Pakistan’s diplomatic clout should hire lobbying groups to pursue and advance the country’s interests.
As Morgenthau states, “The meaning of national interest is survival—the protection of physical, political, and cultural identity against encroachments by other nation-states.”
There is a dire need to follow the advice of Quaid in its full spirit regarding foreign policy. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah stated that “Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation.”
The foreign policy of Pakistan would keep on navigating in a negative direction as far as the domestic socio-political issues would keep haunting it. Because of that, Pakistan lacks the capabilities to find out opportunities in crisis.
The current crisis in Afghanistan would create unstable situations in Pakistan as has been evident in the current wave of terrorism.
The void created by the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the country would be exploited by terrorists once again. The de facto government of the Taliban is creating more polarization in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has hardly renewed diplomatic channels with India as it continues to follow the security-driven narrative. This will lead nowhere in resolving the issue of Kashmir.
On the other hand, the economic and military engagements with China will be going on smoothly and the frosted relationship with the US will remain to fluctuate.
*The writer is a Fellow at The Diplomatic Insight, published by the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies
**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues and the views, opinions & findings represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff