The global economic landscape has undergone profound changes since the end of the Cold War. This successive transition has posed tremendous systemic challenges to the international order; simultaneously it has offered opportunities to the states around the world to refurbish policies aligned with their national interests. Notwithstanding the concurrence of the US-led global order, the rise of China has revamped the dynamics in favour of states that are eager to abandon the conformist security paradigm and aspire to restructure imperatives of security, progress, and development.
In Pakistan’s context, the fallouts of a unipolar world order coupled with domestic political and economic factors has resulted Pakistan to reorient its policy formulation and concentration. In the first decade of the 21st century, Pakistan’s foreign policy apparatus was driven through the security-oriented calculus as Pakistan remained a coalition partner and a front-line state in the global ‘War on Terror’ thus continuing to apply the same security parameters to conduct its foreign policy vis-a-vis immediate neighbours and other regional states.
Nevertheless, China’s BRI initiative of revitalizing the ancient Silk Road route put Pakistan’s economy at center stage and at the helm of regional geopolitics start revolving around this mega Beijing-led initiative. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a pilot project set the platform for Pakistan to redefine its preferences from security-driven ambitions to economic-led policies.
The rhetoric of shift in the foreign policy became eminently visible during the government of PTI that decisively opted economy as vertex point of Pakistan’s envisioned path of progress and prosperity for the foreseeable future. In an account of this, the idea of human security echoes a shift from a state-centric security paradigm to social welfare. Human security has several dimensions, including water security, food security, community security, health security, environmental security respectively. Pakistan’s shift has pivoted around the country becoming a regional hub of economic connectivity in South Asia and is driven by the “sincere desire to re-cast Pakistan’s image as a peace-loving and useful member of the international community.”
Henceforth, the stakeholders, policymakers are determined to ensure national economic security that remains imperative for Pakistan’s capacity to maximize its defense and deterrence and to spend greater resources on human welfare.
To have a critical appraisal of Pakistan’s Geo-economic vision, the understanding of the global economic model is a prerequisite. Contemporarily, redistribution in global economic power has given rise to a new era of great power competition, driven by great power competition between the US and China, instrumented by economic tools to achieve strategic objectives. This increased convergence of economic and security thinking and strategies to change into a noteworthy reformation of the global economic regime that governs international trade and investment.
In addition to that in the new geo-economics world order, the balance and relationship between economics and security have also altered with a greater focus on relative economic gains given their implications for security; and extended apprehension over the security vulnerability posed by interdependence of undermining state control, self-sufficiency and resilience. On a broader canvas, the Chinese model of economic development (BRI) has attained resounding success and to an extent, Pakistan’s economic endeavours are converging with the (BRI) project that has its outreach from Asia to Europe and Middle to Africa. Thus, there is a clear preference of “economy” as modus operandi of diplomatic deliberations at inters- state level.
From Pakistan’s lens, sitting at the crossroads of South, Central, and West Asia makes it one of the key actors in the realm of regional multilateral affairs. To take full advantage of its geographic presence, Pakistan aims to shift its focus from geo-politics to geo-economics through interest maximization based on enhancing connectivity and paving the path for all-encompassing development.
The reflection of the envisioned economic policy of inclusive growth and development can be witnessed in Pakistan’s civil, military leadership’s initiatives toward non- non-confrontational neighbourhood policy. Normalization of ties with India is one major step towards realizing the shift from geopolitics to geo-economics.
It is pertinent to mention that under the umbrella of BRI, China desires to establish an economic corridor through linking Central and South Asia, assisting states in the region transform from “land-locked” (CARs) to “land-connected,” and collectively develop an international transport route connecting Europe with Asia and connecting the North with the South. This particular Beijing’s plan largely lies on the flagship project – CPEC which means Pakistan becomes a vertex point in shaping up regional economic architecture. As Pakistan already offered its infrastructure for better connectivity of Central and South Asia, in particular, cooperation between Gwadar and other ports in the regions would raise impetus for the shortest and most economical sea route for cost-effective transit trade.
Look Africa Policy is a key aspect of Pakistan’s geo-economics vision. This contour of foreign policy tends to establish economic orientated multi-lateral ties with the African states in the forthcoming years. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan’s total trade with Africa is $3 billion as against the total trade volume of $3 trillion. Furthermore, despite immense potential Pakistan’s share in total trade of African countries merely confined 0.3%. Thus, to further expand the economic ties, 10 major states out of the 54 African nations selected trade promotion include Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania, and Ethiopia respectively.
According to this outreaching initiative, Pakistan to offer to negotiate a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with three African trading blocs – Southern African Customs Union (SACU), East African Community (EAC), and Economic Community of West African States that constitute (ECOWAS). Likewise, Pakistan also intends to accord PTA with ECOWAS, which includes Benin; Burkina Faso; Cabo Verde; Côte d’Ivoire; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea Bissau; Liberia; Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; Sierra Leone; and Togolese, is also envisioned. The value of bilateral trade between the countries is less than $100 million. As per policy, joint working groups (JWGs) on trade will be established by the commerce ministry to engage major African countries to have regular interaction.
To conclude, in pursuit of Pakistan’s prosperity, this holistic shift in its foreign policy trajectory opened up fresh corridors of diplomatic engagement. The new strides will not only enable Pakistan to ensure its domestic social and economic stability but will also assist Pakistan to accomplish the desired endeavours globally. Indeed, there is a dire need to execute a coherent and pragmatic strategy that cans in turn Pakistan’s geo-economics vision to reality.