After the fall of Dhaka, Pakistan should have changed its foreign policy. But since Pakistan was dependent on the US/West for its economic and military needs, it did not do so! On June 3, 1949, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, for example, received an official invitation from Moscow, but he preferred to visit the US instead of the USSR. India, on the other hand, decided to adopt an independent strategic approach through the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which was sponsored by leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia and Sukarno of Indonesia.

Reverting to the main issue. Despite being USA’s non-Nato ally in the war on terror, Pakistan’s enormous sacrifices have not been acknowledged by the West, especially by the US. On the contrary, Pakistan has been ignored specifically while planning the grand strategy in Afghanistan after the US-Nato exit in 2014.

Also, Washington has chosen New Delhi as its strategic partner, giving it a predominant role in Asia, particularly in Afghanistan. Thus, Islamabad’s reaction has rightly been unfavourable towards the US, to say the least! That led to the shutting down of Nato supply routes to Afghanistan; the closing down of Shamsi Airbase, reportedly, used by CIA drones; and the boycotting of Bonn Conference.

The accumulated effect of the above mentioned factors has been a search for alternative economic and military support, while maintaining a working relationship with the US because both countries leadership does realise that the present war against terror as well as the peaceful progress and development of the area can get a setback resulting in destabilisation by disturbing the present balance of power in the region. 

Against this backdrop, efforts had been made in the recent past to develop regional cooperation, gradually replacing total dependence on USA and other Western quarters. From a status of total alignment to gradual non-alignment takes time. The process started in the shape of Asean, the Shanghai conference recent strengthening of ties with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and the Central Asian States was part of the geostrategic search towards a slow what sure shift in the foreign policy goals. Much homework in Islamabad and Moscow led to a major advancement towards the desired geostrategic goals in the holding of quadrilateral summit involving Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan planned for October 2-3 in which Russian President Vladimir Putin had consented to participate. When I learnt about this proposed summit at Islamabad, simultaneously with the breaking news of the Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s visit to Moscow next month, my immediate response was “it is too good a news to be true. Touch wood!”. Even a man in the street would instantly react that New Delhi and Washington are not going to digest this, if they can help it.

My worst fears came true when I learnt on Friday that President Putin’s visit to Islamabad has been cancelled and consequently the quadrilateral summit on October 2-3 as also been put off. The print and electronic media is churning all sorts of speculative comments on this dramatic diplomatic setback for Islamabad as the only authentic reason for cancellation is provided is the letter from President Putin to President Zardari. This has been published in the press and needs no comments at this early stage because it provides reasonable reassurance to reschedule the visit to Islamabad and holding of the postponed summit for which fresh dates shall be fixed through normal diplomatic channels.

One should avoid speculation and hope for a rescheduled visit of President Putin and the holding of the quadrilateral summit at Islamabad but three pertinent points must be kept in view for the future. One: sufficient homework does not seems to have been done to stall the reaction of New Delhi and Washington. Now everyone is saying that America has used India to dissuade Moscow from the visit. Islamabad is not so naïve to ignore this. Two: Even without any pressure from New Delhi, does Moscow not fully realise the nature of its defence equipment and economic ties with India and the colossal market it offers. These are part of history. Therefore, something else lies behind the dramatic cancellation of Vladimir Putin’s  visit. Three: Is it possible or likely that while searching for a new geopolitical and geostrategic relationship with Moscow and the Central Asian Republics, at the same time Pakistan was silently flirting with Washington to restore the half century old relationship of the most allied ally. Has Moscow found out some secret deal between Obama or Hillary Clinton and Mr Zardari during their recent meetings.

The only good news and hope is the visit of General Kayani to Moscow, who seems to have survived the storm gripping Pakistan at present.

The writer is President of the Pakistan National Forum. Email: ikramullahkhan1@yahoo.com