International RelationsPakistan Studies

Factors Shaping Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

Different factors influence and shape the relations of a country with other states. Such factors are called determinants of foreign policy. They include both internal considerations as well as the policies of other nations and non-state actors in the international political system.

I have already discussed what is foreign policy and its importance. In this article, I will discuss the determinants of the foreign policy of Pakistan in detail.

1. Pakistan Ideology

The ideological basis of a country determines the ways and approach of a state in conducting relations with the world. Islamic teachings act as the basis of Pakistan’s ideology. This suggests that Pakistan should establish friendly relations with all its neighboring and other countries as per the teachings of Islam. In the same fashion, Pakistan should attempt to build brotherly relations with Muslim countries.

2. Regional factors

The politico-economic status of neighboring states also acts as one of the determinants of the foreign policy of a country. Pakistan’s proximity to powerful and strategically important nations i.e. China, India, Iran, Afghanistan, and central Asian nations make it an important player in international politics.

To put it another way, the geo-Strategic Importance of the location of Pakistan guides the policymakers towards the formation of a balanced foreign policy. Pakistan has strong bilateral relations with China which always has stood with Pakistan at all odds. India considers China a threat to its economic plans and hegemony that it wants to establish in the region.

Similarly, the USA and India are working together to contain the spread of Chinese influence in the region and world. Hence Pakistan because of its unique position has to adjust its relations with these states in its best interests.

3. Islamic Identity

Being a Muslim country, Pakistan emphasizes brotherly relations with Muslim countries in the world.  As a member Muslim World, Pakistan enjoys an important position in the Islamic world from Africa to the Far East.

Furthermore, due to the military and political position in the world, the Muslim world also looks forward to Pakistan for leadership to materialize the establishment of global Islamic brotherhood.

Thus the Islamic identity of Pakistan has been an important determinant of its interaction with the Muslim world.

4. Kashmir cause

The Kashmir cause has been on top of Pakistan’s foreign policy agenda. Pakistan considers Kashmir its jugular vein and India an aggressor with Kashmir under its brutal occupation. Its relations with India, the USA, China and Russia, and the Muslim world have been to a major extent determined by the Kashmir issue.

It was primarily the Kashmir issue that compelled Pakistan to align itself with American Block in the 1950s to ensure its security through military aid and economic support. Both Indian and Pakistan have fought three wars and have engaged with each other in a number of conflicts including the Kargil conflict in 1999.

5. Nuclear capability

Pakistan is the 7th nuclear state in the world. The nuclear status of the country has increased the country’s importance in international politics. The country has been using its nukes as deterrence against any potential aggression from a militarily much stronger India.

It had to face economic sanctions from the USA and other countries as a result of pursuing the nuclear capability and its successful tests in May 1998.

6. Poor Economic conditions

Poor economic conditions have compelled Pakistan to engage in close relations, sometimes, in a compromised way, with developed countries like the USA, international organizations like the International Monitory Fund and World Bank. 

These organizations have been interfering with the monitory, social and political policies of the loaning states.  Pakistan is one of the states in the world to have taken the largest amount of loans from different states, i.e. USA, China, Saudi Arabia, the World Bank, IMF, etc.

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