ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s foreign policy has seen an overhaul in 2012. This has been done chiefly because of international compulsions forcing the key policymakers to make adjustments accordingly.

The major compulsion was the Pak-US relations that saw the historic lowest ebb following the US attack on Salala on November 26, 2011 killing 24 Pakistani soldiers. Consequently, Pakistan closed the NATO and ISAF ground supplies until the US was forced to tender apology in July 2012. This marred relations in the wake of major incidents including arrest of CIA spy Raymond Davis, US unilateral raid in Abbottabad and later Salala attack in 2011 and persistent trust deficit, had virtually forced Pakistani authorities to reduce the country’s heavy reliance on the United Sates. With persistent acerbic relations with the US, Pakistan remained in lurch until it made major changes in the foreign policy in 2012 apparently to pursue a balanced foreign policy.

In the policy revamp, Pakistan shifted its traditional focus and adopted a new approach that envisaged friendly and balanced relations with its immediate and near neighbouring countries. These changes come about after Hina Rabbani Khar was made the foreign minister. For the first time, valuable input was made in the foreign policy by the Parliament that consequently increased Pakistan’s international image as a sovereign state. With these changes Islamabad’s main focus remained on cultivating balanced friendly relations with all its neighbours including Afghanistan, Iran, India, China, and Tajikistan. With robust diplomacy Pakistan has been successful in laying solid foundation for good friendly ties with Afghanistan, India, Iran as well as China. However, among it neighbours, Afghanistan remained the most important country for Pakistan that led to increased high-level interactions between the two countries. This was perhaps out of realisation as well as circumstantial compulsion that Islamabad has been making extraordinary efforts with a total commitment to help promote peace and stability in its war-ravaged western neighbour.

“For Pakistan the most important capitals in the world is Kabul”, Foreign Minister Khar repeatedly said in reference to how Pakistan attaches importance to its relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan had to make it clear to Afghan leadership that Pakistan was part of solution not a problem in a conscious to dispel the impression that Islamabad harbours no ambitions such as strategic depth. Interestingly, these gestures greatly helped Pakistan in gaining good not only from the major powers including the US, UK, Russia and India but from Afghanistan’s other neighbours. Consequently, Pakistan successfully evolved regional frameworks with various countries mainly focusing on Afghanistan. Apart from bilateral frameworks, there are trilateral and quadrilateral mechanisms that now are in place on Afghanistan.

At the same time, Pakistan and United States after persistent lows are now engaged in developing relations that too involves Kabul as peace and stability in Afghanistan has become common interest between Islamabad and Washington. “Though we witnessed some ups and downs, at the end of the day issues were resolved and now we can say with a fair amount of confidence, that relations between Pakistan and United States are moving in a positive direction,” Foreign Office spokesman Muazzam Ahmed Khan remarked. Likewise, Pakistan’s relations with India are improving and there have been high-level interactions between Islamabad and New Delhi. Relations between Pakistan and Iran also saw positive growth, while Pakistan’s relations with China remains on the same trajectory as Islamabad and Beijing also saw high level interactions during the outgoing year.

Foreign Minister Khar has recently conceded the fact that revamping of the foreign policy has already started yielding positive results. As regards major achievements of Pakistan’s foreign policy, senior diplomats in the ministry of foreign affairs believed the year 2012 has been very good and satisfying for the country. They believed that relations with Russia remained on positive trajectory while an excellent relationship continued with China. Likewise, in the Middle East, Pakistan had excellent relations with all Middle Eastern and Arab countries, in fact with all Islamic countries.

Importantly, the Indian Foreign Minister visited Pakistan in September and discussed bilateral relations comprehensively. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to resolve all issues through peaceful negotiations. Similarly, the event of D-8 Summit was a big achievement and success of the revamped foreign policy.