Padelford and Lincoln define foreign policy as: “the key element in the process by which a state translates its broadly conceived goals and interests into concrete course of action to attain these objectives and preserve interests”. Thus, Foreign policy is a set of rules that guides the realization of one state’s goals in the international system. These goals are characterized by national interest. So, it is the national interest that derives the foreign policy of a country. In other words, foreign policy is the maximization of national interest at global level. In order to analyse foreign policy of a country we need a critical evaluation of her national interests and objectives. This article endeavours to evaluate Pakistan’s foreign policy with particular reference to USA.

There are many factors that determine foreign policy of a country. It is impossible to evaluate each one of them in a brief article. However, most important and critical one is the rationality that guides the behaviour of states in the formulation, implementation and realization of foreign policy objectives. However, a retrospective look reveals that Pakistan has failed to rationally materialize her foreign policy objectives. In Pakistan, a reactive, short-term, and emotional decision making has overtaken the arena of a proactive, long-term, and rational foreign policy making. For example, Pakistan’s relations with its immediate neighbours, excluding only China, have been strained in the recent past. In addition to that, recent US bashing of Pakistan’s role against war on terror is a manifestation of foreign policy failure of the country. Had our diplomats and foreign office been rationally and proactively played their due role, the US’ Asia strategy would have had different dimensions.

When all this had happened, a consensus was developed in Pakistan against the American accusations. The country had a befitting response rejecting all the unrealistic US allegations. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan has expressed his intentions for a “paradigm shift” in foreign policy of the country. Is it a realistic position which Pakistan is going to adopt? Is the confrontation with US in the best national interest of Pakistan?

Obviously, the answer is no. The confrontation would only aggravate the prevailing complex regional problems. First, the actors are different but the script of criticism is the same as we have heard time and again. It is Pakistan’s diplomatic failure that it couldn’t propagate her view of the Afghan war in the US, let alone at global level. Had Pakistan properly addressed the US concerns and propagated its own narrative of war, the outcome would have totally different.

Second, Pakistan and USA are decade long allies. Adopting a policy of confrontation would not benefit any one of them. For US, it would exacerbate the Afghan problem. And for Pakistan, it would create a vacuum for its enemy to fill. Third, in case of a collision, a game changer project that Pakistan is enthusiastically working upon (CPEC), would be under severe threat. In that scenario, Pakistan’s economic survival will be at stake. Then it will be in no position to achieve its foreign policy objectives. Fourth, no other country will fill the vacuum created by USA in Pakistan’s strategic chess board. So, the policy of confrontation is neither in Pakistan’s national interest nor rational.

As far as the resolution is concerned, negotiations are the best possible solution to resolve this impasse. First, USA should not blame Pakistan for her policy failures in the Afghan war. Instead, she must acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts against war on terror. The US led war on terror has incurred unbelievable collateral damage and a bad name to Pakistan. However, Pakistan has sacrificed thousands of soldiers, men, women and children to get rid of this menace. Pakistan is the only country which has overcome the monster of terrorism in such a short span of time. US must acknowledge and respect these time tested efforts of Pakistan. Also, United States must address Pakistan’s grievances on her new South Asia strategy. A constructive diplomatic engagement would serve the purpose. Second, US should not get her opinion hijacked by anti-Pakistan lobby. The former should realistically evaluate Pakistan’s role as her ally. Lastly, with the Russian resurgence in Afghanistan, US should be cognizant that Pakistan’s support is an imperative for her victory in afghan war. The unfolding regional changes in Afghanistan demand a convergence of US interests with Pakistan. So, US should correspondingly adopt her foreign policy goals.

First, Russian resurgence in the region has forced United States to re-evaluate her Afghanistan policy. This has forced US to prolong her military presence in Afghanistan. Because, US withdrawal from Afghanistan would mean handing it over to Russia. Second, Indo-china strategic competition in the region has opened up new avenues for realignments. Therefore, a convergence of interests has bonded Pakistan, China and resurgent Russia in a triangle on the one hand and US, India, and Japan on the other. While addressing a news conference on the conclusion of a three-day envoys’ conference in Islamabad on 7th Sep., the Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said that “unprecedented geopolitical changes are taking place in the world.” He further said, “We have to quickly adjust our direction. We need to review these situations” and suggested a “paradigm shift” in foreign policy of Pakistan. In these circumstances how Pakistan should redesign and readjust her foreign policy?

First, Pakistan should engage in a constructive dialogue with USA. So that both the countries can address each other’s grievances in order to minimize any possibility of confrontation. Second, Pakistan should skilfully construct and propagate her narrative of war against terror. It can be made possible only by activating diplomatic means of the country. A changed global opinion, in favour of Pakistan, would serve in the best national interest of the country. Third, Pakistan should not rely on any one of the super powers. Instead, given geostrategic importance, Pakistan should adopt a holistic, proactive and long-term foreign policy. In this regard two prong strategy may be adopted. One is, friendly relations with immediate neighbours. Particularly, in this domain, Pakistan must endeavour to get Afghanistan on its side. Second, Pakistan should also consult with the countries that have unanimity of views with Pakistan on the Afghan war. These include Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey. Pakistan should manage their perception regarding Pakistan’s role in the region with special reference to war on terror. Yesterday, Foreign Minister of Pakistan held a bilateral dialogue with his Chinese counterpart. Both discussed post-Trump regional and global issues. They had unanimity of views regarding the prevailing strategic environment in the region. It is a right step in the right direction, more need to follow. Fourth, Pakistan should simultaneously concentrate on both domestic and foreign policies. Foreign policy goals must not shift the country’s focus away from domestic policies. A consensus in political, economic, and social realm is need of the hour.

In order to conclude, a changing geostrategic environment has provided Pakistan with an opportunity to re-evaluate and reformulate her foreign policy. As described earlier, regional and global realignments suggest a holistic, proactive, and long-term foreign policy. This is the way forward to maximize Pakistan’s national interest at global level.