Last month in an interview, while answering whether US military bases would be permitted to stay in Pakistan to conduct cross-border counter-terrorism campaigns against Taliban, ISIS, and Al-Qaida, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he would “absolutely not” allow any such activity from Pakistan into Afghanistan. This reaction of the Prime Minister appeased many people inside the country but most of the analysts and foreign policy experts were stunned by this.
The statement proved to be a sort of revival of PM Imran Khan’s political career in Pakistan as most of the emotional citizens are seeing it as a heroic statement by the head of the government, but they are unaware of the repercussions this reaction could have on Pakistan internationally and domestically.
Many foreign policy experts have criticized this statement by the PM, suggesting that the government adopt a prudent approach while dealing with the US, given the economic and political plight of the country. Pakistan and US relations have always been hot and cold, and such a reaction by Pakistan could isolate the country internationally as most of the international institutions and Arab countries are under the influence of the US.
Similarly, such statements will create a gulf between the US and Pakistan which could be further exacerbated by the arch-rival of the country, India. Pakistan is already facing the ramifications of its inclination towards the US in the previous Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US. On the other hand, India opted to remain neutral at that time and this policy helped the country to lure both the states to attract India towards them through different sorts of economic and military deals.
Thus, in the recent cold war between China and the US, Pakistan should also adopt a prudent approach and should not antagonize any of the superpowers as it needs support from both countries on the international level to clear its name from the grey list of the FATF, to support the Kashmir cause as well as for gaining economic stability.
Repercussions at the International Stage
The recent statement by the Prime Minister of Pakistan could impinge difficulties for the country on the international stage. Pakistan’s image has already been tarnished internationally due to the allegations of supporting Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and terrorism which are no doubt baseless but the labeling of Osama bin Laden by PM Imran Khan as a martyr has further ruptured the country’s image.
Recently, when an anchor asked Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi about the aforementioned statement of the Prime Minister, he, after taking a long pause, chose to pass the question. This shows how the foreign policymakers of the country are confused because of the irresponsible statements of the Prime Minister and other ministers.
Pakistan is already facing difficulties in the anti-terrorism-related international organizations like FATF. No doubt that the country is on its grey list as a consequence of being a part of the Beijing consensus and not being a US ally, but still such irresponsible statements by the Prime Minister of the country are playing a negative role in damaging the economy and foreign relations of the country.
After ‘refusing’ the US, it is most likely that Pakistan will face serious hitches in the global arena. The US and its allies will try their best to damage Pakistan, using their influence over the institutions like FATF and IMF to the detriment of the country. The recent enlisting of Pakistan in the list of the countries which induct child soldiers by the US is a substantiation of how the West and its allies will try to hit Pakistan through baseless and fake allegations because they sway the international institutions.
European Union Trade in Peril
The recent policy shift of Pakistan toward the US could seriously damage the already stagnant economy of the country. Trade with the European Union plays an important role in Pakistan’s economy as 14.3 percent of the total trade of the country in 2020 was with the former. It is an open secret that the US and the European countries are allies as most of the EU countries are also part of NATO.
Thus, it is not hard to imagine the effect distorted Pakistan and US relations will have on the relationships of the former with the EU. The pandemic has also played its part in deteriorating the economic plight of the country and destroying small businesses. In such a condition, any sort of direct or indirect hindrance in the relations with the European Union will cast negative impacts on the economy of the country which will be unbearable for the poor.
A Possible Strain in Relations with KSA and UAE
As per Khaleej Times, ex-pats in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among the major contributors to the remittances in Pakistan. From this diaspora, the remittances remained above $2 bn for the 10th consecutive month in April 2021. This makes a huge chunk of the economy of the country and helps to improve the economic plight of Pakistan. It is well known that the UAE and KSA are under the influence of the US as the latter provides them with military assistance and much more.
The recent Abraham Accords are one of the examples of the United States’ influence over the UAE. Hence, the tension between Pakistan and the United States of America can cause strained relations between Pakistan and the UAE and KSA. COAS General Bajwa visited KSA, in May 2021, to revive the damaged relationship between the two countries.
So, any sort of vandalization this time will not only damage Pakistan economically but will also impair the country in terms of the Kashmir cause and reduce the support of the Muslim countries internationally. Furthermore, the space created between the Arab countries and Pakistan will be filled by India which be perilous for the country and will strengthen its arch-rival.
The gulf created by the irresponsible statements and egoistic statements of PM Imran Khan between Pakistan the United States could prove to be a blessing for India as it will be the only country to reap the fruit of the isolation of Pakistan internationally. Most of the issues of the country are with its arch-rival India so the latter will not miss any chance to deteriorate the image of Pakistan.
This distance between West and Pakistan will incline the West towards India and the latter will get favors not only in terms of military support but also in international West-dominated institutions like FATF, IMF, UNO, and the like. The recent deals regarding military support between the US and India depict that the latter is the beneficiary of any wrong move by Pakistan.
The further inclination of the West and the Arab countries towards India will also open new doors of prosperity for India but the case for Pakistan will be otherwise. Hence, keeping in mind the economic and political plight of the country, it could be easily gauged that the statements of PM Imran Khan will only ensure calamity to the country.
Inclination Towards China
Although the confrontation policy of Prime Minister Imran Khan will inflict irreparable havoc on Pakistan, yet there is a ray of hope, that is, the utter inclination towards China. This policy of total shift from the Western bloc to the Beijing consensus will antagonize the West but Pakistan will have the full support of China.
Undoubtedly, the latter is the new superpower of the world and the coming era is the Chinese era. So, being in China’s bloc will help the country in the long run. It will open new doors of investment in every sector of life in Pakistan which will resolve employment in the country. China is an all-weather friend of Pakistan and both countries have always supported each other regardless of the consequences, so it is most likely that China will never fail Pakistan in the future too.
This will also increase the weight of the country in the region. Although the tilt towards the Chinese bloc is good for the future of the country, yet a prudent approach of rapprochement towards all the hegemons of the international system is the need of the hour because of the economic, social, and political plight of the country. If Pakistan antagonizes the West, it is most likely that the US and its allies will not carry a carrot and sticks policy this time for Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan should give no such statement which could portray him as a hero in domestic politics but could be inimical for the country in the long run because national interests come before personal interests.