Pakistan: Domestic conditions and global interaction

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By Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi

Linkages between domestic context and foreign policy have always been acknowledged by major analysts of global politics. The importance of this relationship increases with the great strides in information and communication technologies and especially the introduction of satellite television and radio.
Internet-based communications have contributed to pulling closer together, the external and internal contexts of the state and the linkages between domestic and foreign domains is exceedingly reinforced by economic interaction in the context of globalization.
Of late, Pakistan’s foreign policy choices are being shaped by the imperatives of its economy. It is seeking loans and financial deals from friendly states to repay overdue international loans and liabilities to avoid debt default, seeking foreign investment to boost its economy and to create job opportunities for citizens within and outside.
Saudi Arabia was the first country to offer Pakistan a loan of 3 billion dollars for enabling Pakistan to meet its foreign debt obligation and agreed to provide oil worth $3 billion on deferred payments in the next couple of years.  Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is visiting Pakistan this month is expected to unveil a major Saudi investment package. The UAE has similarly agreed to provide cash funding and investment. Pakistan is also striving to convert the current gas supply arrangement with Qatar against cash payments to deferred payments.
The need for securing foreign investment has led Pakistan’s government to introduce changes in its domestic economic and investment policies. It is reviewing its taxation policies and the procedures for foreign investment to simplify them and has given several concessions to business and industrial sectors in the mini-budget announced earlier this year, assigning priority to various projects for roads, power generation and industry under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Additionally, domestic policies for improving the law and order situation are designed to boost the economy and ensure that foreign investors do not shy away on the pretext of internal insecurity.  
In June 2014, the Pakistan Army, alongside law enforcing and intelligence agencies undertook major security operations against terrorists in tribal areas and mainland Pakistan.  By the end of 2017, terrorist activity was contained to a great extent.  This has helped uplift Pakistan’s image abroad and its role in facilitating the dialogue between the Afghan Taliban and the American government has restored some international confidence in Pakistan’s ability to control terrorism.
Not only has this drawn the attention of foreign investors, it has enabled Pakistan to launch plans to encourage foreign tourists to visit Pakistan including religious tourism for Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus.  The latest easing of Pakistan’s visa regulations is another domestic policy decision that facilitates the foreign policy agenda.  
Just as internal economic imperatives have influenced Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities, external pressures have moulded Pakistan’s domestic priorities equally.  
Traditionally, Pakistan has devoted more and more financial resources to defence and security than what it provided for education and health care to its citizens. Consequently, a large part of Pakistan’s population suffers as a result of poverty and under-development. 
But the real strength of a state to protect itself from external threats and project itself successfully at the international level depends on its internal economic resilience and political and societal stability.  A state cannot expect to play an effective role at the global level for long if it suffers from internal conflict, disharmony, violence and a poor economy.    
(Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi is a Pakistan-based political analyst. Twitter: @har132har)