Realigning Pakistan’s Transnational Connectivity

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Pakistan witnessed yet another democratic political transition as Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif assumed Office as the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan in the aftermath of a successful no-confidence vote of motion against the Imran Khan government.  Irrespective of internal political change Pakistan continues to take further strides on diplomatic fronts as the newly elected premier of state vows to further uplift Pakistan’s diplomatic engagement at connectivity at the inter-state and regional levels. As a matter of fact, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is visiting Saudi Arabia at the invitation of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and it has great strategic importance. His visit will assure Saudi leadership of Pakistan’s steadfast support for the security and integrity of the kingdom. There will also be discussions on furthering energy-related cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  Furthermore, both countries will also discuss economic cooperation as Pakistan’s economy needs support from friendly countries. Pertinent to mention that this trip holds immense significance as it will set the tone of diplomatic engagement vis-à-vis the rest of the Middle Eastern states as mentioned by the Prime Minister in his inaugural speech in which he underscored the special importance attached to Pakistan’s ties with UAE and other Gulf countries, Iran.   Notably, The Prime Minister also received messages of felicitation from leaders of a large number of countries, including Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, UAE, Iran, Bahrain, United Kingdom, India, Malaysia, Jordan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and others. This diplomatic customary felicitation reflects that domestic political transition is likely to impact less on Pakistan’s regional and global posture.  As far as relations with great powers are concerned, the newly elected Prime Minister has already expressed commitment to further upscale the ties. At first, it pledges to speed up CPEC projects, terming China as Pakistan’s most reliable partner. European Union and the UK, He stated that Pakistan’s relations with the US should be on the basis of equality. In the context of Afghanistan, the Prime Minister stressed the imperative of peace and increased humanitarian assistance. He reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.  Likewise, While noting the desire for good relations with India, the Prime Minister underlined that durable peace cannot be achieved without a just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri people in their legitimate struggle and the commitment to raise the Kashmir issue at all forums. Thus, it seems that the new democratic government in Islamabad seeks positive-sum gain engagement with all the regional and global actors. The fundamental policy goal is to ensure economic stability and also pursue Pakistan’s geo-economic vision. 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 connectivity of inclusive growth and development can be witnessed in Pakistan’s civil, and military leadership’s initiatives toward non- non-confrontational neighborhood policy.   In pursuit of Pakistan’s prosperity, this holistic shift in its foreign policy trajectory opened up fresh corridors of diplomatic engagement. There must be a shift from the current short-term focus of the economic stability program toward a credible long-term strategy – that may require some bridge financing to stabilize long-term economic growth. The new strides will not only enable Pakistan to ensure its domestic social and economic stability but will also assist Pakistan to accomplish its desired endeavors globally. At the domestic level, Political coalitions must be strengthened, as they are required to push for reform. Any reform that is passed must be accompanied by legislative reforms by provincial governments. There must also be a clear political calculus on how to change and bring reform. All of this needs to be strategically thought out by the parliament. In addition to this, to ensure that opportunities reach all corners of a country and all citizens within its borders, a Territorial Development approach is necessary when designing public policy with the spatial concentration that can be harnessed to improve living conditions everywhere, enabling the convergence of living standards across the country.

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