- Apparently the first test
PTI’s domestic policy has been pretty clear for a long time; everybody knows the eleven points, and just which miracles to expect now that Imran Khan is the new prime minister. Yet the party has always been vague about foreign policy. So far all we know is that Imran Khan, because of the weight of his personality, will make things right with India, bury the hatchet with Afghanistan, breathe fresh life into SAARC, suddenly make the relationship with US one of equality and get practically all governments to substantially increase trade with Pakistan.
So much for clarity. Yet that’s not very likely how things will play out. And, it seems, the party’s foreign policy will be put to the test before its domestic agenda. Already, just as Imran settles in the hot seat, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is preparing to meet him in Islamabad on September 5. By now the Pakistani government has digested his warning to the IMF – about not lending to Pakistan – and would understand the nature of the threat. Surely there’s no way Washington will let Pakistan, a nuclear state after all, tumble towards default. This is just vintage US arm-twisting to squeeze political concessions for access to financial aid. And since Pompeo made no secret about the reason of his visit – ending the war in Afghanistan – this would be the time for Imran to demand equality going forward.
Plus a few other heads of state have been in a rush to talk to Imran recently. The Saudi, Turkish and Iranian governments, especially, are looking to talk and invest in Naya Pakistan as well. But all these governments have clear stakes in the rapidly degenerating, zero-sum game of Middle East politics. And whoever trades with a certain bloc leans towards one or the other faction. So far PTI has been completely silent about its foreign policy. There’s not much longer, however, that it can keep its cards close to the chest.