President Barack Obama has won the mandate to rule US and by proxy the world for another four years. We as the key ‘problem child’ of the world need to be clear on what we are faced with in the future. It is not so important how we view the world. It is more important how the world views us. Only then can we make intelligent interventions to protect our sovereignty, and maximise the gains for our peoples. Currently, Pakistan’s foreign policy seems fractured. We seem too obsessed with our worldview. Frankly, we are constantly on the receiving end and have lost all initiative. Perhaps, if the government relied on taking advice on foreign policy positions from the opposition in Parliament, it could do better.

It is time for a wake up call in the corridors of the Foreign Office and presidency. In the last week, we have had many high level visits from Iran and Russia cancelled. We are being led on the Malala issue by million signature petitions by the world. And we are tolerating Karzai’s insulting comments: “Terrorism is a snake and when you train a snake, you can’t expect it will only go in the neighbour’s house. When the attack on Malala happened, this proved our point.”

What are the major powers thinking? What does Obama have on his foreign policy plate and how will that affect us? He has the Afghanistan withdrawal to plan with Pakistan involvement and not sans clearly. He needs to decide how he will hold Israel back from an attack on Iran, and why the two-state solution is stuck in limbo creating credibility issues for all stakeholders. He needs to decide how much involvement he will have in the Arab Spring/uprisings considering the backlash could be more on the US, since the dictator allies would have vanished leaving the masses to the potential influence of religious forces. He will have to decide on the Asian front how to manage shoring up alliances with Japan, Korea and India in wake of China’s predominance.

What does Europe have on its foreign policy plate? It is clear that after the Lisbon Treaty, the weaker EU institutions failed to create an equality grid for all EU members and the biggest three (namely UK, France and Germany) have an edge. Thus, the big three foreign policy priorities will be the key, which Pakistan needs to be better prepared for. Germany has a geo-economic world vision, which means its big businesses lead the way. France, whilst being keen on sovereignty, wishes to lead due to its penchant for ‘role de la France’. The UK is considered to have the Rolls Royce diplomats which have the Commonwealth forum as platform. Together they are concerned with Libya, Syria, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they are not just there to echo US positions. They consider their role larger due to their historic connections with all these areas. In the final analysis, they are all committed to the European Parliament’s European Security and Defence policy. Pakistan needs to focus on that because the military interventions against terrorism will be coordinated, to a large extent, through an existentialist threat perception by the combined European force.

What does China have on its foreign policy plate, as enunciated recently by Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee? He said clearly that China “will improve relations with developed economies and continue to promote friendship and partnership with its neighbours to ensure that its development will bring them more benefits.” Pakistan should not be under any illusion, as to how this policy statement will impact it. Any terrorism spill over into Chinese territory will not be appreciated. Any slow down on economic partnership and infrastructure investments will not be advisable either. Pakistan needs to buckle up on both these fronts.

In the midst of these international priorities where does Pakistan find itself? Pakistan as a country does not have a foreign policy, which is coherent or coordinated. In a world where we are the focus in a negative way, we need to sort our story. The presidency/Foreign Office, the military and Parliament need to run with one narrative. Whilst we as opposition are clear on our foreign policy direction, the threesome is not coordinated. We don’t mind leading the debate, but then the sharing of information at tactical level has to be seamless. The following positions need consensus for us to face the world in a unified way:

1- Pakistan will strike at the terrorists, who have attacked us and do not accept the state of Pakistan or our constitution. The method of the strike has to be discussed with all political stakeholders clearly, so that the spill over in the cities is clearly braced for as one nation. No blame games will be tolerated. The type of enemy being struck, its capability for damage has to be explained clearly. Its extent of enmity to the state has to be spelled out versus left in the dark.

2- We will speak to those who are willing to enter the dialogue process with a view to entering the electoral process.

3- Pakistan will not tolerate duality on drones. If they need to be used for targets that are hardened, it needs to be our own military, which needs to have the control.

4- The concept of no-go areas for our own population has to end. The government must establish full control in all of Pakistan. So that no ethnic group or sect is persecuted inside Pakistan. Similarly, there needs to be zero tolerance for boots on ground presence of foreign forces because that wrecks our own security regime.

5- The government’s treatment of TTP and nationalists rebelling against discriminations has to be different. The same medicine doesn’t apply to all elements.

6- Pakistan needs to be clear that it wishes to see more economic activity with India whilst having forward resolution dialogue on hardcore issues like Kashmir. Parallel effort has to be made on both economy and territorial disputes.

7- The impact of the 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan whilst ensuring a dialogue with Talibans, which protects Pakistan’s national interests, is critical.

8- Pakistan has to play a role in calming the West on Iran. It is an important neighbour, which cannot be left to face the world alone. Our relevance needs to be felt.

9- On China, we need to ensure security and a fast track facilitation on investment.

10- ‘No Bilateral Investment Treaties till favourable Free Trade Agreements’ with all our major trading partners needs to be the basic rule of thumb.

In the final analysis, none of the above is possible till a new government such as PML-N takes charge in Islamabad. Corruption, crumbling institution/economy and our own fiscal debt cliff has made us an international basket case. With a responsible foreign policy vision, fiscal discipline/austerity and clarity on foreign policy directions, we can overcome the credibility gap with the rest of the world. However, for that we need to understand clearly the world priorities, our potential role in it and have one narrative to face the world.

The writer is a former parliamentarian.