Shifting sands


Of all the things that the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) gets credit for, especially the way in which it handled the pandemic and got the economy going again, a lot of people believe that its greatest successes have come in the realm of foreign policy. After all over the last two years Pakistan has reached out to other nations for friendship as well as trade, something not seen since the Musharraf days, also made a far bigger issue of Kashmir at the international level than previous governments, and even ruffled some feathers in the traditional hierarchy among Muslim countries, especially those in the Arab region. It has also engaged with some friendly countries, like Malaysia and Turkey, like rarely before and even come within striking distance of a new bloc to give Muslims especially Kashmiris a new voice, counter Islamophobia, and all that.
Yet for all its foresight and wisdom it seems to be unaware of, or not too concerned about, the shifting sands in its own immediate neighbourhood. The recent landmark deal between Iran and China, both pushed to the edge by an erratic president in the White House, seems hardly to have registered in Pakistan. The reason, as we all know it, is that one of the partners in this deal is not the best of friends with one of our best friends in the Gulf. Be that as it may, why do our chosen representatives seem to be in the habit of forgetting that countries, as the famous saying goes, have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests?
And as dear as all our friends in the Gulf are to us, we must never forget that others who might not rub some of them the right way have also always watched out for our interests. And, as neighbours, we owe it to each other to build partnerships that benefit not just the two countries and their people, but also the region as a whole. The Chinese-Iranian embrace has meant that India has been scrapped from many of its crucial deals with Iran, like the Chabahar port. Now Iran will no doubt become a valuable member of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well, which will write its own story for its people. Everybody also knows of course that both Iran and China are good friends with Russia, and together they form a long arc overlooking the whole region. The only country left out of all this is sadly Pakistan. Perhaps it’s time that we also rewrote the book on our foreign alliances.