Security: A factor in Pakistan Foreign Policy 1947-1997


The geo-political situation of Pakistan has made security its top most priority. Since her inception in 1947, Pakistan has faced the problem of security, for which India is mainly responsible. The threat to its security from the eastern side is indeed not imaginary. The fact remains that during the fifty years of its history Pakistan has fought three wars with India. On the western border Pakistan inherited the role of guardian of marches and for a decade fought a war by proxy with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. No wonder concern for security has dominated the foreign policy of Pakistan.

India in fact resented the creation of Pakistan and had a desire to undo it at its earliest opportunity. Birth of Pakistan was heeded as the main obstacle in the fulfillment of the Hindu dream of founding Ram Raj in the Akhand Bharat. Hindus started propagating that Pakistan will not sustain for long and will breakdown sooner or later and at last will become a part of Mother India.

The Indian National Congress accepted the 3rd June plan with mental reservations. Commenting on the plan Gandhi said, We Moslems and Hindus are interdependent on one another; we cannot get along without each other. The Muslim League will ask to come back to Hindustan. They will ask Jawahar Lal Nehru to come back, and he will take them back. Hindu leaders kept expressing the same views even after the creation of Pakistan. On the event of the first independence day of India, Sardar Patel was sure that Pakistan would crash in a short period of time. J.B. Kripalani, the Congress President, remarked, the freedom we have achieved cannot be complete without the Unity of India. Even during late 1950 Nehru said, We want to cooperate and work towards cooperation, and one day integration of Pakistan with India will inevitably come. If it will be in four, five, ten years. I don’t know.

It was not only wishes of the Indian leaders but they did their best to damage the independence of Pakistan. To achieve this objective in 1948 India occupied Kashmir; in 1965 she forced a war on Pakistan first on the issue of Run of Kutch and then violated international border leading to a total war; and in 1971 sent its forces to assist secessionists in East Pakistan leading to its separation from Pakistan. Possibility of the fourth Indo-Pakistan war is not yet over. The arm forces of both the countries are confronting each other at Siachin: the roof of the earth, since mid eighties. They are also engaged in fighting on the Line of Control in Kashmir. The enrichment of atom by the two countries and development of missiles, which could carry atomic warheads, could easily identify that the tension between the two countries is rapidly increasing.

Pakistan entered the arena of the world politics with the pious intention of peace within and peace without. Friendship with all the countries of the world was the main aim of the foreign policy of Pakistan and she did not want to annoy or offend any nation. In a broadcast to the people of United States of America in February 1948, Quaid-i-Azam said:

“Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country or nation. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our utmost contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed people of the world and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

Pakistan, thus, started its foreign policy without any narrow or special engagements and without any prejudices in the international sphere. Pakistan desired to follow an independent foreign policy and tried to keep itself aloof from the growing rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Liaquat Ali Khan toured United States of America in 1951. He also acknowledged the offer of USSR but some how or the other was not able to make the trip to Moscow. Pakistan refused to oblige the United States and did not agree to send even a token-armed personnel in the Korean War.

In his address to a luncheon meeting of the National Press Club in Washington, Liaquat Ali Khan, the than Prime Minister of Pakistan declared the integrity of Pakistan, the promotion of its culture and the economic development of the country were the basic concerns for the foreign policy makers of the country. But Indian approach of solving issues by force enhanced the significance of security for Pakistan. Occupation of the princely states by India, war in Kashmir in 1948, stoppage of the river water coming to Pakistan and tension on the borders on the issue of minorities in 1951 are few of the examples of Indian aggressive attitude.

At the time of partition, possessions of the British India including defense assets were to be divided between the two newly established dominions of India and Pakistan. But the Indian government refused to give Pakistan its due share. Pakistan had to begin with a meager quantity of arms and very little military equipment at the time of its establishment. In the words of Ayub Khan, We had to start our army with bits and pieces like gigantic jig-saw puzzle with some of the bits missing. Thus, when the security of the country was threatened from the eastern borders, Pakistan was left with no other option but to pay full attention to its security.

Pakistan was not very well off in those days and its defense needs adversely effected its economy. During the Korean War, Pakistan got a chance to obtain foreign exchange by exporting jute and cotton. The money earned was used to buy weapons and other military equipment to fortify the defense of the country. After the Korean War, Pakistan did not have enough foreign exchange to purchase arms from the open market.

The threat to its security and the strongly felt defence needs forced Pakistan to adopt policy of alliances. By that time polarization in the international political system had become quite clear and the two blocks were fast emerging. The Soviet Union was not ready to supply arms to any non-communist country. Thus the only alternative left for Pakistan was to get aid from the United States, which was readily obtainable if Pakistan joined the defense pacts. An insecure Pakistan welcomed the idea of alliances and joined the pacts without much hesitation. Pakistan decided to side with the West in order to build up its defense and to safeguard its newly-won freedom; and to acquire peace to promote its economic resources.

The ever increasing hostile posture of India and the pressing need for security forced Pakistan to keep tilting towards the western camp and finally it decided in favor of joining the Baghdad Pact / Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). In this way compulsion imposed by the threat to national security from India ended the era of positive neutrality in Pakistan foreign policy and pushed the country into the cold war as an ally of the West.

Hence, for the first time, Pakistan showed its concern in having modern military equipment for its defense during the visit of Liaquat Ali Khan to the United States in 1951. Pakistan was interested in getting military and financial aid from USA so that it could built her defense capability to meet the security needs. By doing so, Pakistan could also avoid the financial burden on its economy. It was otherwise becoming difficult for Pakistan to purchase the modern warfare.

It was indeed the security factor that led Pakistan to adopt pro West policy in the 50. Rumors that both Pakistan and United States were preparing to enter into a military pact were very much there in the beginning of 1952. However, the first pro-West change took place on the political stage of Pakistan when Khawaja Nazimuddin was replaced by Mohammed Ali Bogra as Prime Minister of Pakistan in April 1953. Pakistan finally Joined the first pro-West defence pact, CENTO in 1954.

The pact failed to carry on for long due to the clash of interests of the United States and United Kingdom in the Middle East. Though, the two countries were interested in keeping the Soviet Unions out of the Middle East but both of them wanted to maintain their own political hegemony in the area so as to guard their oil resources and their interaction with the Arabs themselves. However by joining the Baghdad Pact / CENTO Pakistan got immediate military assistance. It was also a bi-product of the Pact that Pakistan came closer to Turkey and Iran. But, the pact failed to provide a durable solution of the security problem of Pakistan. Baghdad Pact was opposed by the Arab countries and Pakistan by joining the pact strained its relations particularly with Egypt. The mishandling of the Suez Canal crises adversely effected the credibility of Pakistan in the Arab World.

The other significant pact, which Pakistan joined, was South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO). The principal aim of the pact was to design a collective defense arrangement for South-East Asia. Zafarulla Khan, the foreign minister of Pakistan, desired to make SEATO on the pattern of NATO, but failed in this attempt. Pakistan ultimately joined the pact after little hesitation.

SEATO failed to accomplish its main goal of becoming a strong shield against the armed attack as none of the major powers included in it belonged to South-East Asia. Pakistan major apprehension for joining the pact was the threat from India while SEATO was mainly concerned with the containment of communism. Pakistan, who joined the pact so that it could find a permanent patron in case of Indian aggression, did not feel cozy in the alliance as it was made obvious to her that she could not find any military assistance from SEATO against India. United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand made it clear that they would not follow any decision of SEATO, which asked them confrontation against any of the Commonwealth countries. While United States was not ready to fight against anyone but the Communist aggression. This left France, Philippines and Thailand. It was not possible for these countries to fight for Pakistan against India while USA and the three Commonwealth countries stood aside.

The pact proved to be of no use for Pakistan as it failed to solve Pakistan problem of security. In this way Pakistan anticipation of overcoming its security problem by joining the defense pacts met with a failure. Pakistan, who had proved to be the most allied ally of the United States, was now well aware of the fact that the United States and other western powers were only interested to use Pakistan in their fight against communism and are least concerned about the security problem of Pakistan.

The United States armed assistance to India after Sino-Indian war of 1962 further distressed Pakistan. Pakistan knew that India will utilize these arms against her. The fears proved true during the encounter between Pakistan and India in Run of Kutch and the war of 1965. In 1965, when a war broke out between India and Pakistan, the United States stopped military assistance to both the countries. No distinction was made between the allied Pakistan and the non-aligned India. The US arms embargo during the 1965 provided the final proof, if that was needed, that the United States is not a friend indeed. Disappointed and dissatisfied Pakistan ultimately realized that there is no room left for her to continue with the alliance tag.

When the trust in the United States was shaken, Pakistan searched for other alternative and acknowledged the Soviet mediation and went to Tashkent for peace talks with India. It was also the era when Pakistan became close to the Peoples Republic of China and started re-equipping its forces with the assistance of China. China not only gave Pakistan military aid but also helped her in the development of indigenous arms industry. Mirage Rebuild Factory at Kamra and the Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila set up with the monitory and technical assistance of China have played significant role in the defense of Pakistan.

The United States did not like the growing relations between Pakistan and the communist block while Pakistan did not appreciate the US policy of dictation. Pakistan polity towards the United States has been best expressed in the words of Ayub Khan. In his book Friends Not Masters, he wrote, People in the developing countries seek assistance, but on the basis of mutual respect; they want to have friends not masters.

In the early sixties Pakistan also tried to bridge the gulf with India by offering her joint defense if the Kashmir problem was solved. A long session of Bhutto-Swarn Singh talks is another example of Pakistan efforts to solve the security problem through bilateral talks. But Pakistan efforts to establish good relations with India on bilateral terms failed and the differences between the two traditional rivals increased. In 1965, the armies of the two countries fought first at Run of Kutch in April, and then Indo-Pakistan war began on September 6, the same year.

Despite the Indian superiority in air, sea and land forces, Pakistan frustrated Indian designs and compelled her to approach the Security Council for cease-fire, to save her humility. Due to the efforts of the Security Council, cease-fire took place on September 23. On the invitation of USSR, the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India met in Tashkent and Tashkent Declaration was signed on January 10, 1966. This agreement attained nothing except that it put an end to the state of war between the two countries. In fact it granted no mechanism for the solution of the Kashmir dispute, which had led to the war. It even failed to lay down the foundations of permanent peace between the two neighbors and proved a truce.

The September war was a great blow to the economic development and national solidarity of Pakistan. The people in East Pakistan started feeling that the main emphasis of the defense polity was on the security of West Pakistan and no importance was given to the security of the eastern wing of the country. Indian media and Hindu teachers of East Pakistan fully exploited the feeling of the people and the politicians of East Pakistan were made to believe that West Pakistan regarded the Bengalis as second-rate citizens. Dissatisfaction ultimately led to the revolt, and with the assistance of India, in its secession from Pakistan in December 1971.

The war brought the two rivals on the negotiation table, where India being victorious, had an edge over Pakistan. To discuss the agenda of the meeting between the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India, the representatives of the two countries met at Murree and Rawalpindi in April 1972. Finally the two leaders met at Simla on June 8, 1972. Simla agreement was signed between the two countries on July 2, 1972. According to the Simla Agreement, Pakistan and India decided to resolve the conflict and confrontation between them. The two countries also agreed to work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and establishment of durable peace in the sub-continent. They decided that their relations would be governed by the principles of the United Nations Charter and they would settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.

During the Simla talks Pakistan was more concerned about the immediate issues. Being the defeated party, it was mainly interested in the release of the prisoners of war, the disengagement of troops and the resumption of diplomatic relations. The agreement decided that all outstanding issues and conflicts including the Kashmir problem would be settled amicably and bilaterally. However, cease-fire line on December 17, 1971 was declared as the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Simla agreement, like the Tashkent pact, failed to solve the core problem i.e. Kashmir, in the Indo-Pakistan relations. Pakistan problem of security remained unresolved. The two countries have continued to disagree on the interpretation of agreement so far as Kashmir case is concerned. Pakistan maintains that Kashmir problem is still unsettled and Pakistan has the right to raise it in the United Nations; while the Indian interpretation is that Kashmir is an integral part of India and negotiations can be held only on bilateral basis.

Indian designs to join the nuclear weapon race became known in early seventies when their first nuclear explosion took place. Though according to the Indian sources, they were working in that field to remove a permanent imbalance between their county and China but the policy makers in Pakistan considered nuclear India as a great threat to the security of Pakistan. This compelled Pakistan to start its nuclear program resulting in an other area of dispute between the two countries.

The Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan on December 27, 1979 brought a major change in the region. The country that was directly affected was Pakistan as its security also had to face threat from the western border. There was a fear that in order to get approach to the hot waters, the Soviets might also attack Pakistan. Afghanistan, which had played the role of a buffer state between USSR and the sub-continent, was no more there. Pakistan became front line state and had to play the role of the guardian of marches and for its own security had to fight a war by proxy in Afghanistan for nine years.

Motivated by security needs coupled with ideological affinity, Pakistan decided to support the Mujahideen, who had declared Jihad against the Soviets. The two options in front of Pakistan were either to fight a war by proxy in Afghanistan or to face the Soviet forces directly in the years to come. Pakistan opted for the former. At that crucial juncture, Pakistan was not in the good books of the United States. Only a month before the Russian invasion on Afghanistan, Pakistani mob attacked the American embassy in Islamabad. The incident resulted not only in burning the US embassy but two Americans were also killed. The government of Pakistan did not take any action against those, who were responsible for the attack.

The United States in the early days did not take the Afghan resistance seriously. However, the success of Mujahideen, backed by Pakistan, brought a change in the US policy in Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter, the presided of the United States, offered Pakistan his cooperation if Pakistan provided bases to the Mujahiddin in Pakistan according to the wishes of the United States. Pakistan considered the American assistance insignificantly small in the face of the needs of the Mujahideen. Zia-ul-Haq, the president of Pakistan termed it as peanuts and rejected the American offer. This rejection further annoyed the United States.

The defeat of Carter in the presidential elections of 1980 changed the American policy towards Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan, the new American president, was of the view that the Afghans were courageous people and were willing to risk everything in defense of their homeland. He not only decided to provide military assistance to the Afghan Mujahideen through Pakistan but also decided to strengthen the armed forces of Pakistan. Pakistan, who so far was the only supplier of arms to the Mujahideen, agreed to play the role of conduit for the supply of the US assistance to the Mujahideen.

This indirect war brought the Pakistan-Soviet relations at the lowest ebb. Soviet Unions started supporting India on different issues including Kashmir on various platforms. The Russians planes whenever found an opportunity dropped bombs on the Northwestern borders of Pakistan, which resulted in a number of civilian causalities in North Western Frontier Province.

Afghanistan jihad further widened the gap between Pakistan and India. India refused to share Pakistan threat perception and when the United States gave military aid to Pakistan, India, as usual alleged that it would be used against her. India proclaimed that the arming of Pakistan was against the spirit of the Simla Agreement. In 1980 both India and Pakistan blamed each other of interfering in each other internal affairs. India accused Pakistan on its involvement in Sikh problem and contended that Pakistan was supporting the Sikh activists in the Indian province of Punjab by providing them moral and physical support. On the other hand, Pakistan charged that the unrest in the province of Sindh was intimidated by India. The new factor further diminished the chances of improvement of relations between the two countries.

Pakistan could not afford war on two fronts. Thus in early eighties Pakistan made a formal proposal of no-war pact with India. India termed the offer as a trap and rejected it. Tension on borders kept on increasing and the armed forces of India and Pakistan started taking positions in mid eighties. The stage was set for another big encounter between the two neighboring rivals. However, the situation was resolved by the Cricket diplomacy of Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

The tension between the two neighbors kept on increasing at Siachin front. This led to clashes between the old rivals on the top of the roof of the world. Siachin issue was another addition to the long list of differences between the two countries. Neither Pakistan nor India are ready to retreat their respective stands although it puts a heavy burden on their economy and the loss of precious human lives. In case of Indian control over Siachin, Karakoram Highway would become vulnerable and can prove to be a great security risk for Pakistan.

Pakistan is an ideological state and has tried to give Islam due importance in its foreign policy. Still an in-depth study of the foreign policy of Pakistan reveals that on certain occasions the foreign policy makers of Pakistan gave greater importance to security than ideology. Pakistan participation in Baghdad pact at the cost of her strained relations with the Arab world can be forwarded as one example. Similarly Pakistan policy during the Suez crises and the Gulf war were motivated by its security needs. The ideology of the Peoples Republic of China is poles apart from the ideology of Pakistan; but the common security problem of the two countries has welded them into a formidable defense co-operation.

Heavy expenditure on defense has adversely effected Pakistan economy and has forced it to depend heavily on foreign loans and assistance. Since this could be procured from the west particularly the United States and US controlled international monitoring institutions like World Bank or I.M.F; Pakistan had no choice but to follow a pro-West foreign policy. Had India behaved like a friendly neighbor, Pakistan would not have given security the importance that it had to give. This would have given Pakistan a chance to follow an independent foreign policy as was desire of its founding fathers and would have much more likely to achieved the ideal of Peace within and peace without.