2021: A year of Diplomatic Impact

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During the year 2021, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy seeks to protect, promote and advance Pakistan’s national interests in the external domain.  Likewise, developing friendly relations with all countries of the world, especially major powers and immediate neighbors, and consolidating commercial and economic cooperation with the international community benchmarked Pakistan’s diplomatic commitments across the globe. Pakistan leadership made 32 foreign visits, hosted 35 leaders during 2021.

The year began with a major policy shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Earlier in February, emboldened by the national progress, prosperity, and sovereignty, the Prime Minister of Pakistan unveiled a comprehensive national security framework incorporating both the traditional and non-traditional facets of national security with economic security. This envisioned plan aims the act as a pivot in the region with a focus on shifting Pakistan’s synergies from hard power to geo-economics.  Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa agreed that Pakistan needed a paradigm shift in its policy to transform Pakistan from a geo-strategic to a geo-economic hub. There was consensus that Pakistan needed to leverage its strategic location for economic gains.

Later in July, during the visit to Uzbekistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan underlined the pillars of Pakistan’s “Vision Central Asia.” This was another new dimension to Pakistan’s futuristic diplomatic endeavors. Under this policy, Pakistan aims at an enhanced, tangible, effective, result-oriented, and long-term sustainable engagement with Central Asian countries by forging strategic partnerships. The policy has five pillars: political; trade & investment; energy & connectivity; security and defense; and People to People exchanges. Following this, Aligned with the revamped foreign policy, “Look Africa Policy” is also key aspect which Pakistan gave preferential treatment throughout the year to further promote geo-economics vision. This contour of foreign policy tends to establish economic orientated multi-lateral ties with the African states. In the year 2021, Pakistan witnessed numerous impediments that directly/ indirectly influenced Pakistan’s diplomatic endeavors.  Challenges of domestic economic constraints and political strife influenced national foreign policy apparatus. The outbreak of COVID-19 become the most significant global public health emergency to human society in the 21st century and it has also posed daunting challenges to Pakistan vis-à-vis crisis mitigation.  The aftermaths of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban Empire have raised grave concerns for Pakistan concerning conflict fallouts. Pakistan remained under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) radar as the terror financing watchdog again decided to retain Pakistan in the grey list asking the country to complete concurrent action plans became another prolonged hurdle for Pakistan.  Combatting Indian bellicose rhetoric and hybrid warfare challenges are amongst the major challenges that Pakistan witnessed in the year 2021. Although Terrorism and security threats were reduced in the country militancy, extremism, and fault lines exploitation kept it in check throughout the year. In the domain of geopolitics, balancing ties between the US-China, and KSA-Iran emerged as a major foreign policy challenge for Pakistan.   Successful deliberations with IMF for economic package and retention of GSP+ status of Pakistan were also the spotlight of Pakistan diplomatic mission.   Mitigation of religious indoctrination, anti-Muslim sentiments, and growing Islamophobia globally are among the major issues that Pakistan dealt with in the year 2021. Pakistan also dealt with non-traditional security threats in particular the climate change challenges.   Pursuing a successful policy over the Kashmir, Palestine Issue remained a key emblem of diplomatic maneuverings of Pakistan. In November 2021, Islamabad hosted a meeting of the extended Troika, comprising Pakistan, China, Russia, and the United States to discuss the latest situation in Afghanistan.  Likewise, Pakistan participated in the 2nd Ministerial Meeting of Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan and presented the idea of creating a mechanism for the six neighbors of Afghanistan to develop a unified regional approach

Most recently, Pakistan hosted the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The foreign ministers from the OIC member states and observers, participants also a special representative from the United Nations system, international financial Institutions and some non-member states including the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, Germany, Italy, and Japan, as well as the EU participated in the summit on Afghanistan. Besides expressing solidarity with the Afghan people, the summit explored avenues for containing and reversing the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, especially in terms of food shortages, displacement of people, and a potential economic collapse. At the beginning of this year, Pakistan and India recommitted themselves to the year 2003 ceasefire arrangement at the Line of Control (LoC) and agreed to address the ‘core issues’ that could undermine peace and stability.  Under economic diplomacy, Pakistan attained major success in the retention of its economic agreement with the EU. The European Commission retained Pakistan’s GSP+ status till the year 2024.  In July 2021 World Bank recognized the Ehsaas Emergency cash program among the top four social protection interventions globally in terms of the number of people covered. Pakistan also attained notable success through its climate change diplomacy.  Under the Clean and Green Pakistan initiative, ten billion tree tsunami programs heaps phrased globally, in particular during the COP-26 Summit. Furthermore Pakistan, UAE ink MOU for Green Cooperation at COP26. Likewise, Pakistan also vowed cooperation with the ‘Middle East Green Initiative of KSA.  Pakistan successfully executed its combatting Covid-19 strategy and its handling of the COVID-19, based on the “whole of Government approach”, “smart lockdowns” and the maintenance of “balance between lives and livelihood”, and earned Pakistan global recognition.   Pakistan and, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to work together on the pandemic, polio eradication campaigns, health and development issues, and climate change. The year drawn to close nevertheless Pakistan has to further uplift its diplomatic calculus in the year 2022 to pursue its diplomatic interests.

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