Imran Khan’s foreign policy vision | Pakistan Today

Imran Khan’s foreign policy vision

Closely tied to economic uplift

In one of the most divisive elections in Pakistan’s history, Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has emerged victorious. Khan’s party is hoping to form a government at the federal level under brewing debate of massive riggings and irregularities. While opposition parties have vowed to hinder Khan’s efforts to form a government, it’s only a matter of time that we see divisions within opposition parties as an outright opposition would mean inviting the state’s wrath at a time when Pakistan is in acute financial crisis and needs a stable government to begin negotiations with international donors to manage its looming fiscal crisis.

Once Khan’s foot settles’ in the government, one of his most pressing concerns is going to related to reviving Pakistan’s economy, decrease the country’s debt, bring in investments and create avenues for job creation on a massive level. This is by and large what khan’s political promise has been this is what his mandate is all about. It depends on how Khan’s party pursues Pakistan’s foreign policy, which is tightly knitted, to any efforts to put the country’s economy back on track. So far, Khan has given one speech after winning the election and surprisingly his remarks on foreign policy were not only comprehensive and detailed but also showed an intent to deepen trade links and economic connectivity in the region and beyond. Contrary to Khan’s aggressive rhetoric in the opposition, it’s understandable that PTI would not be interested in confrontation with any of Pakistan’s neighbors as it would not only distract the party from its most immediate priorities which focus on reviving the economy but would also make the mission of bringing back investments and add to Pakistan’s growing international isolation.

Khan’s remarks on Pakistan’s relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, two major powers in the Middle East were aimed at driving a fine line rather than choosing one over the other. Pakistan has historically been a victim of both states’ ideological rivalries, which kept Pakistan a hostage of sectarian scuffles not only at home but also abroad for decades. However, Khan’s policy is to be driven by a good working relationship with both countries that can benefit Pakistan economically.

On Pakistan’s bilateral relationship with the USA, Khan in his speech talked about a relationship, which is mutually beneficial to both countries, rather than a relationship in which one state can impose over the other. While Washington is not likely to change its overall policy towards Pakistan that has remained driven by the former’s broader security interests in the region, Khan’s government would most likely benefit from a relationship, which has less drama and more conciliatory exchanges. It’s important to note that Pakistan is most likely to be going to the IMF in a month or so to look out for a bailout as it faces deep economic fallout and with the US having primary influence over the organization, Islamabad should only look for an improvement of ties with Washington.

With Afghanistan, Khan’s position was predictable and is likely to remain focused on working with Pakistan’s military and Afghanistan to put Kabul’s peace process back on track. Moreover, there won’t be many hiccups based on playing a blame game when it comes to the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan. Khan’s position on Afghanistan’s security situation has remained very clear as he envisions a peaceful Afghanistan that can help Pakistan achieve its goals of a stable and prosperous nation.

Once Khan’s foot settles’ in the government, one of his most pressing concerns is going to related to reviving Pakistan’s economy, decrease the country’s debt, bring in investments and create avenues for job creation on a massive level

His remarks related to Pakistan’s relationship with India were very interesting. “I am that Pakistani who believes that to improve economics in the sub-continent, trade between India and Pakistan is important. This will be beneficial for both the countries,” he said. During his speech, he went on to say that “Our priority should be to increase trade, but the sad part is that the core issue is Kashmir. We should sit across the table to solve this issue, instead of indulging in a blame game. The Kashmiri people have suffered a lot of human rights violation. Let’s not continue this blame game over Kashmir and Balochistan. We are stuck at square one,” he said. By all means, it’s an interesting position to take as Khan is known for his open criticism of New Delhi and his targeting of the previous Pakistani government’s policy of reconciliation with India that fell flat after initial contacts back in 2014. While it remains to be seen whether Pakistan would pursue peace with India given how complicated and conflicted the nature of the relationship is, Khan’s remarks of opening talks with India only reinforce his desire to build ties with regional countries which can put Pakistan’s economy on an upward trajectory. There has already been a report, suggesting that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad has been in touch with Khan’s team for months to do the groundwork for any such outreach.

Overall, with all questions on the fairness of the recent election, Khan should be given a chance to openly implement his foreign policy agenda as Pakistan cannot afford to fail at a time when mounting economic and fiscal challenges loom large.

Umair Jamal

Umair Jamal is a graduate of the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. He is a research fellow with the Centre for Governance and Policy. He regularly writes for various media outlets. He can be contacted on Twitter: @UJAmaLs.



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