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Pakistan is grappling with multiple crises, including economic, law and order, political, and administrative issues, which hinder its progress in diplomacy. In contrast, India, despite having its share of challenges, is actively engaged on various diplomatic fronts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Jakarta for the ASEAN-India Summit in September 2023 is a noteworthy example of India’s proactive diplomacy. This visit is significant, especially considering that India had recently hosted the G20 summit in New Delhi. It underscores India’s ambitions to strengthening its ties with the ASEAN region, even as global geopolitical dynamics resemble a new cold war, reminiscent of the post-Vietnam War era half a century ago.

India’s growing interest in the Indo-Pacific region can be attributed to its alliance with the United States. This alliance was influenced by Hillary Clinton, who, during her tenure as the US Secretary of State, advised India to focus on the East rather than the West. The rationale behind this shift was the USA’s strategic interests in Pakistan, which was a source of concern for India due to ongoing tensions and skirmishes. Nonetheless, there are clear signs of ongoing destabilizing elements that appear to be deliberately aimed at ensuring Pakistan’s continued involvement with the United States.    

In examining Pakistan’s current challenges, it’s evident that resolving them necessitates astute political leadership. A visionary political scientist can leverage the country’s abundant talent, natural resources, and diligent workforce, along with existing infrastructure, to drive progress. Relying solely on foreign aid, like that from the US or the IMF, is not a sustainable solution.

Drawing parallels, Afghanistan, without US support, seeks to develop good governance and vital infrastructure like water canals to bolster its economy. Pakistan, too, has the potential to address its problems, resonant of battle-damaged countries like Germany and Japan, which rebounded and left Pakistan behind in development.

Some countries appear intent on keeping Pakistan in a state of instability to prevent it from emerging as a regional power. However, Pakistan, having achieved nuclear capability, possesses the potential for rapid growth. In 1962, Pakistan ventured into space with the launch of Rahbur I & II rockets and developed a burgeoning industrial sector. Its five-year plan served as a model for ASEAN countries, leading to their prosperity. Unfortunately, Pakistan endured wars and the tragic partition that divided the nation.

Despite these setbacks, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia’s support helped revive Pakistan’s economy. However, a recurring issue with Pakistani leadership is their tendency to rely on the United States for political legitimacy and support. This often leads to Western powers interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs, resulting in the removal or punishment of leaders like Z.A. Bhutto, Ayub Khan, Gen. Zia ul Haq and others.

The bureaucracy, once known for its hawkish stance, found itself powerless and as a result became inactive. The bureaucracy operates effectively like a well-oiled machine only under the guidance of experts otherwise its members prioritize self-preservation. Despite a decline in talent levels, it can still perform if it is given appropriate guidance and it feels secure.

In the field of diplomacy, Pakistan must expand its efforts beyond its current scope. While economic constraints limit its options, Pakistan, armed with the negotiation skills inherent in diplomats, could carve out a space for itself even in adverse circumstances. Looking beyond its borders may offer a way out of the pressure. One might suggest that Pakistan can alleviate the pressure it faces by adopting an outward-looking approach.

Another avenue for Pakistan to explore is the domain of information technology, where it can secure a reasonable foothold. This includes digital technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Nanotechnology, Robotics and Automation, Quantum computing, cyber security, and more. Corruption in its all forms, however, remains an inescapable issue in Pakistani society, and it must be eradicated promptly to prevent a brain drain. The country is witnessing an alarming trend where its youth are enticed by the promise of better opportunities abroad, often through the allure of jobs, relationships, and settlement in countries around Russia and Eastern Europe. It is also crucial to make these young and energetic individuals aware that they are being enticed into a superpower’s trap, one designed to exploit their lives and enlist them as pawns in global conflicts.

Moreover, foreign powers have exerted influence in Pakistan by dismantling, weakening, or fostering doubt within key institutions that historically formed the foundation of the country’s strength. These include the family structure, bureaucracy, political system, and judiciary, primarily through the manipulation of media outlets. Undoubtedly, the media possesses immense power, capable of altering perceptions and narratives dramatically. To reclaim its determination and self-reliance, Pakistan must implement decisive actions.

In a nutshell, Pakistan’s capacity to maintain sovereignty and safeguard its interests depends on combatting corruption, enlightening its younger generation, and bolstering the institutions that have suffered deterioration.

The author is the Chief Editor of Monthly Interaction and Chairman, Rabita Forum International (RFI).

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