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Pakistan’s Ambitious Shift From Geopolitics To Geo-Economics

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Pakistan

Pakistan is a country that is situated at a highly favorable geostrategic location in the Arabian Sea in terms of the ongoing geopolitical conditions around it. Due to this advantage of geographical location, Pakistan can immensely benefit from the geo-economic prospects available in the region for a better economy and regional presence. However, the question is how does the government of Pakistan plan to extract maximum benefits from its location and potential to grow as a geo-economically strong nation. That is up to the country’s leadership, of course.

The year 2021 marked the change in the narrative of Pakistan’s top leadership regarding the ambitious plans to shift from geopolitical engagements of security and strategic vulnerability towards a more open geo-economic approach. This shift in the foreign policy of the country comes at a time when China’s $62 billion investment in CPEC is already moving towards its second phase. This investment and the ongoing energy, infrastructure, and industrial projects under CPEC have given further confidence to the government officials to pursue more geo-economic goals in the future, bringing more regional partners to the fore. 

Of course, this all is a reflection of how Pakistan sees its geostrategic location i.e. in a favorable position to engage more countries on an economic level rather than letting them view the country through a mere security lens.

From the country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi to the National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, the foreign policy shift towards regional economic connectivity and cooperation has been vocally laid out and discussed among the top leadership. This clear and ambitious shift is although much-needed for the ailing macro and micro-economy of the country, however, the road towards such economic cooperation is not smooth.

The constant rivalry with neighboring India in terms of historical, ideological, and strategic issues like Kashmir is further being aggravated due to the radical Hindutva ideology of the Modi government against Indian Muslims. Also, India is creating a strategic belt across the Indian Ocean along with the US to counter China and Pakistan’s rise, simultaneously. 

On the North-Western front, the presence of Taliban leadership and the border issues on the Durand Line have also created an uncertain situation. In the wake of the Taliban capture of Kabul, Pakistan has seen growing attacks on military personnel and a volatile Pak-Afghan border situation.

Similarly, the growing US-China competition is gaining pace with each passing day. In such a situation Pakistan is left in a weird position to completely tilt towards either of the powers which can be quite dangerous for the country right now.

But despite the challenges, the country has initiated the process of its shift towards economic cooperation rather than a mere “ally” of the superpowers like the US or NATO due to its geostrategic position. This shift has been led by the prospects to strengthen the Central Asian Muslim countries like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. These countries are resource-rich and thus Pakistan plans to leverage this aspect to strengthen socio-economic friendships through energy and trade agreements. The revival of the TAPI and CASA-1000 energy projects, and the recent inauguration of the ITI train linkage project is the reflection of the cooperation among Pakistan, CARs, Iran, and Turkey.

Similarly, Pakistan also plans to invite Middle Eastern and European countries to the CPEC projects to create extended connectivity and economic cooperation. To create a more flexible and global image of the country, Pakistan recently hosted the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC in mid-December to highlight the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan which successfully resulted in urgent and long-term funding mechanisms for war-ravaged Afghanistan’s economy.

Pakistan has also been actively participating in the climate change discussions on different global panels and resolved to tackle the issue through green measures.

Considering the country’s previous image and strategic vulnerability towards extremist elements and the surrounding political volatility of the regional players, the shift towards a more economically prosperous country is welcoming. However, one needs to see how the country manages and balances its politics and economy to achieve the desired outcomes of geo-economic progress. Let’s hope and see.

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