PM’s Visit to Russia: A Tale of Journey from Geo-politics to Geo- economics

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The shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy from geo-politics to geo-economics was first envisaged in March at, the “Islamabad Policy Dialogue” which was organized by National Security Division. The major paradigmatic shift in foreign policy focuses primarily on Pakistan’s strategic importance in the economic and trade arena. The strategic importance of Pakistan has kept it to the epicenter of great power politics. However, this trend seems to take a major shift because the hallmark of the international political milieu of the 21st century is guided by increased economic cooperation between the states.

The urge to take a shift in foreign policy is evident with PM Imran Khan’s visit to Russia on 23rd February 2022. The visit has been criticized from different quarters due to ongoing Ukraine Crises, however, this clearly indicates that Pakistan would explore its own interests that are, to stabilize the economy and increase trade with the regional countries. Therefore, it is imperative to analyze this visit under the umbrella of Pakistan’s geo-economics interest. The visit also affirms that Pakistan will look forward more to the Asian-led alliance.

Nevertheless, depth analysis of the Pakistan-Russia bilateral relations is a prerequisite in understanding the current shift. It is an accepted truth that Pakistan refused to join the Soviet-led bloc in the 1950s by joining SEATO in 1954 and CENTO in 1955 respectively and stayed a part of the pro-west bloc during the whole cold war. The U-2 plane incident, Soviet Union’s unflinching support to India in Kashmir issue, and, Afghan Jihad brought Pakistan and Russia at loggerheads. The iceberg of hostility started to break when Pakistan showed eagerness to join SCO. That major shift occurred when the USA killed Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in a secret operation and then in May 2011, killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in NATO airstrikes at Salala check post along the Afghan border. These events conspicuously weekend Pakistan and USA relations. In addition to that, Washington’s amicable behavior towards New Delhi also became an alarming situation for the already volatile region. The second breakthrough occurred when Pakistan joined SCO in 2017 by China’s vote. Since then, China has been playing the role of catalyst between Russo-Pakistan bilateral relations. In this backdrop, PM Imran Khan’s visit solidifies the bilateral relations between Russia and Pakistan and geo-economics interests.

As per the realist paradigm in International Relations, the state’s own interests come first, and therefore, principles of foreign policy must secure those interests. Pakistan’s domestic issues like economic instability, energy crisis, default in oil and gas imports, and shortage of electricity should be the prime factors in defining foreign policy. To cater to these interests, state actors are showing a tilt towards China, Iran, Central Asian Republics, and Russia to be precise. Megaprojects like CPEC, TAPI, CASA-1000, Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, Pakistan Stream Gas pipeline, and Trans-afghan Railway Project are under progress to cater to the domestic need and up the diplomatic ante of Pakistan in the comity of nations.

However, a brief analysis of these projects is necessary, to understand their importance for Pakistan’s geo-economic interest. The foremost important mega project is CPEC- a $64 billion-dollar investment of China- which aims at laying down an extensive road infrastructure, Special Economic Zones, Development of Gwadar Seaport, and electricity-producing energy projects. It is estimated that CPEC will provide thousands of employment opportunities to the disgruntled youth, Pakistan’s exports will increase, and energy demands will be met. Pakistan- Iran gas pipeline and Pakistan Stream Gas pipeline are both equally important because Pakistan’s gas reserves are depleting with the rapid surge in population and it is estimated that gas reserves will last only 12 more years. In addition to that, Pakistan’s dependency on Middle Eastern oil and gas imports will be lessened. Equally important are CASA-1000 and TAPI which not only connect Pakistan with the region but also meet the energy demands at home.

In a nutshell, while opting among foreign policy choices, a careful analysis of cost-benefit should be considered. Pakistan’s foreign policy is gradually transitioning from geo-politics to geo-economics and from being a security complex state to focusing more on non-traditional security challenges. A mature foreign policy is obvious from Pakistan’s abstinence to vote in UNGA on the Ukrainian issues while maintaining neutrality. Over the course of history, Pakistan has remained the United States most allied ally and had gained nothing but years of war on terrorism and crippling economy. However, it is time to set the foreign policy on the correct path while fulfilling our own geo-economics goals.

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