What Lord Palmerston said at the height of the British Empire stands true for the American empire in the coming decade: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

Pakistan along with the rest of the world functions under the American empire whether it likes it or not. It must understand the rules of engagement of such an empire. Pakistan’s foreign policy options cannot just be seen in the light of its own limited power projections due to its economic chaos.

Pakistan functions in the international system of states as per the rules made by all those who are above it in the power pyramid. We need to accept that the international system in 2012 is run as per the priorities of the American emperor at the top. Cascading down the pyramid are those who support the emperor or who wish to be the emperor one day. It is, therefore, critical to understand the objectives, strategies of the emperor’s cascading pyramid in order to plan for the next decade.

Often Pakistani politicians and intelligentsia alike are embroiled in a reactive foreign policy imperative, discussion or analysis. We hardly step back and examine trends, future projections. Unless we understand the patterns, which will drive American foreign policy decisions, in the future we cannot plan ours or maximise ours. The first major lesson to be learnt is that USA is an empire the way Britain and Rome were. The second major lesson is the most critical: all empires try to establish a balance of power to their own advantage to ensure no overpowering spheres of influence develop.

In light of this age-old revelation, let us examine how USA will be manoeuvring all over the globe. The Americans have a moralistic view of their own state and a dream of isolationism. Both of these are now outdated concepts, which are unattainable with their current international entanglements. With their economy being 25 percent of the world economy, withdrawal from meddling in the affairs of each state is now no longer an option. A management of the world empire built over a period of time keeping regional balances in place is the only way forward. Whilst Americans have an impact in each country of the world in terms of their empire status, there are some key balances in the next decade which will be more important than others.

These are world fault-lines which have an impact beyond their immediate geographical boundaries. An understanding of these fault-lines, American strategy within them for the next decade, will better help Pakistan determine which side of the fence would bring us more advantages internationally. Whilst Pakistan is currently at the receiving end of the emperor’s crumbs, it doesn’t have to be for the next decade if Pakistani rulers get their priorities right.

The pinnacle of the American power is its reliance on its navy to maintain superiority over global trade through the sea-lanes. Pakistan’s emphasis on its own navy for spheres of economic interests in preferential sea-lanes needs re-budgeting and re-focus. Pakistan also needs to position itself advantageously with the USA in this domain so that its value in the sea-lane chain can be leveraged.

The main fault-lines where the emperor is eager to maintain balance of power have been Israel-Arab, Iran-Iraq, Indo-Pak, Russia-Europe and China-Asia. Within these fault-lines, the effort of the Americans has been to avoid any dominant players growing. It has primarily been an attempt to maintain fault-lines and a balance of power, which leaves everyone dependent on US interference so as to maintain its empire status. And that too with minimal US troop deployment. As so intelligently illustrated in George Friedman’s ‘The Next Decade’, it is in essence a strategy designed to prevent regional hegemons from threatening American interests. This will continue to be the strategy going forward.

In such a scenario, a disintegrated nuclear Pakistan which leaves India in a dominant position does not suit the balance of power strategy of the American empire. A less challenged India on the Afghanistan and Pakistan front will leave the Indian navy challenging the USA, which it cannot afford. This threat is being seen as a bigger threat than terrorism for American balance of power strategy. Afghanistan and Pakistan can be viewed as a stretch of 200 million contiguous people; leaving both in a disintegrated state doesn’t suit the balance of power in the region. The bottom line is that none of the fault-lines need to be too disintegrated or too dominant. Those regional hegemons, who are becoming a threat to US interests, will be downsized by the US in the next decade. Pakistan needs to resolve outstanding disputes and manage its Afghanistan Indian policy in light of this US dilemma. It must prove itself to being useful versus rogue in the exit strategy of the US in Afghanistan and must step up to the challenges.

Whilst for Pakistan all countries require special bilateral relations and Pakistan already has its favourites which it must maintain, there is a list of countries which will be critical for the US in the next decade. A special economic trade eye on these from Pakistan’s point of view would make good foreign policy.

Iran and Turkey will be the new balancing hegemons in the Middle East countering Israel in the next decade. Pakistan must continue to zoom in on its existing relations with the first two. The US lens will have to zoom out of relations with Israel to maintaining a balance within the region. Saudi and Afghanistan relations will continue to drive both American and Pakistani foreign policy imperatives.

On the Asian side, Korea, Japan, China, Australia and Singapore will be key for US maintaining a balance of power in the region. Pakistan must ensure specialised economic relations with each. It must balance its exports strategy both in terms of products as well as regions. Pakistan must learn from Brazil and diversify exports to all regions and diversify its exports product basket as well.

On the European arena, the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Russia need to be watched since they will be key for US balance of power in the next decade. Pakistan must understand the intricacies of how Europe will not want to support US military adventures and how any entente between Germany and Russia will affect the American balance of power.

On the Monroe doctrine arena and North of it, Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and Canada will be prime focuses for the US. These are countries which are close enough or problematic enough to require special treatment. Pakistan must grow trade links with each one of them. Whilst the African continent will not be problematic for America, it goes without saying that the Muslim countries with oil should be a focus for US and Pakistan alike.

Pakistan has enough on its domestic plate. It needs to wean itself off the aid trap by becoming productive and less corrupt. However, Pakistan must immediately embark on a fresh approach to developing bilateral relations with all the countries identified. This doesn’t mean that these are the only countries on which Pakistan should concentrate. It only means that in the next decade these countries are projected as being important for balance of power strategies of the US.

Therefore, it will be wise for Pakistan to maintain economically advantageously relations with each of them. An out-of-the-box approach with each is required for Pakistan. A specialised case to case treatment of each country from a trade perspective is required. Pakistan needs to also urgently leverage its demographic dividend and lure these countries to seeing it as a demographic bonanza. Only then will Pakistan be able to avoid the failed state status trappings it’s so fast falling into.

n    The writer is a former Member of the             National Assembly of Pakistan.

    Email: marvi.nmemon@gmail.com

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