The modern day field of International Relations is based on the premise that a country’s “self-interest is its best interest”. It means that there are no permanent friends or enemies in the international arena and countries must decide the best options for themselves while dealing with other countries. Like almost any other discipline in Pakistan, International Relations and Foreign Policy are not directed by people who are experts in the field, giving way to a culture of ad-hocism. Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and major world powers have been controlled since the beginning by people not equipped with the practice of international diplomacy. Barring China, none of our neighbours are enamoured with us. United States, our benefactor since the 1950s, is losing patience with us due to petulant behaviour.

Military men, without even the basic knowledge of International relations but full of bravado, have been dictating the foreign policy of our country for far too long. Their behaviour and mentality has apparently permeated through the ranks of Mandarins at the Foreign Office. Our foreign policy has constituted an unwavering animosity towards India, Overtures towards “Muslim” countries and using the United States as a cash cow when required (to be discarded and discredited as soon as our “real face” is exposed). Many retired foreign secretaries and civil servants from the Foreign Services cadre have taken to writing Opinion pieces for newspapers. One can discern their level of ‘intellectual’ ability from the rubbish churned out by people who represented Pakistan abroad for many a year. A few days ago, a former Ambassador pontificated on the role played by Kautilya’s “Arthashastra” in India’s foreign policy on these very pages. His Excellency wrote that Kautilya “argued that every nation acted to maximise its power and promote its political, economic and military interests, and therefore moral principles or obligations had little force in inter-state relations. The purpose of this strategy was to conquer other states. A weak nation forced to rely on the kindness of neighbouring states is doomed to destruction.”

The crux of this argument can be explained as “self-interest is the best interest” as I’ve explained earlier. The writer however, sees something nefarious in this theory when applied to the India-Pakistan relationship dynamic. He probably referred to nuclear-armed Pakistan as a “weak state, reliant upon the kindness of neighbours”. Further in this masterpiece, His Excellency opined that “the enemy would be squeezed between the conqueror and his allies. In pursuance of this approach, the wise ruler would make one neighbouring state fight another and having pretended the neighbours from getting together, would conquer his own enemy.” In this allegory, the enemy (and conqueror) is “India”, Modi is the “wise leader” and Afghanistan is presumably the “ally”. Or the roles can be changed to China and Pakistan, depending on your point of view.

According to the writer, “the original contribution [of Kautilya] was the concept of Silent War. Silent War is a kind of warfare with another state in which the ruler and his ministers act publicly as if they were at peace with the opposing state, but all the while secret agents and spies are assassinating important leaders in the other state, creating divisions among key classes, and spreading propaganda and disinformation with the ultimate objective of weakening and subjugating it”. Unfortunately, wild theories based on ‘archaic texts used by conniving Indians’ are commonplace among our military circles (especially the annual Green Books).

While we are on the topic of ancient texts still used as foreign policy guidelines, something from Pakistan’s vault should also be considered. ‘The Quranic Concept of War’ was written by Brigadier S.K. Malik in the 1970s. The book’s foreword was written by Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, the then-President of Pakistan and Army Chief of Staff, and the Preface by A.K. Brohi, the Advocate-General of Pakistan, and one-time Pakistani Ambassador to India. The book’s publishers mentioned that “Their respective endorsements of the book established Malik’s views on jihad as national policy and gave his interpretation official state sanction.” The 150-page book is available on the internet and includes the following gems: “Terror struck into the hearts of enemies is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition in the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing a decision upon the enemy, it is the decision we wish to impose upon him”.

Perhaps it would be wiser for retired foreign office veterans to take a look at their own foreign policy and how incongruous it is to modern day realities. Independent thinking, for once, can help steer the way for an updated version of our policies in the international domain. The irrational fear of ‘India’s hegemony’ and efforts to match India pound for pound in the arms race has not helped the progress of our country so far. Continuation of this paranoia will not reap any rewards in the future either.