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Old Saturday, October 20, 2007
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Arrow Foreign relations of Pakistan

Foreign relations of Pakistan

Pakistan is the second largest Muslim country in terms of population (behind Indonesia), and its status as a declared nuclear power, being the only Islamic nation to have that status, plays a part in its international role. Pakistan is also an important member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Pakistan is an active member of the United Nations. Historically, its foreign policy has encompassed difficult relations with India, a desire for a stable Afghanistan, long-standing close relations with China, extensive security and economic interests in the Persian Gulf and wide-ranging bilateral relations with the United States and other Western countries.

Wary of Soviet expansion, Pakistan had strong relations with both the United States of America and the People's Republic of China during much of the Cold War. It was a member of the CENTO and SEATO military alliances. Its alliance with the United States was especially close after the Soviets invaded the neighboring country of Afghanistan. In 1964, Pakistan signed the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) Pact with Turkey and Iran, when all three countries were closely allied with the U.S., and as neighbors of the Soviet Union, wary of perceived Soviet expansionism. To this day, Pakistan has a close relationship with Turkey. RCD became defunct after the Iranian Revolution, and a Pakistani-Turkish initiative led to the founding of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) in 1985. Pakistan's relations with India have improved recently and this has opened up Pakistan's foreign policy to issues beyond security. This development might completely change the complexion of Pakistan's foreign relations.

Bilateral and regional relations


In 1950, Pakistan was among the first countries to break relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and recognize the People's Republic of China. Following the Sino-Indian hostilities of 1962, Pakistan's relations with the PRC became stronger; since then, the two countries have regularly exchanged high-level visits resulting in a variety of agreements. The PRC has provided economic, military, and technical assistance to Pakistan. The alliance remains strong.

Favorable relations with China have been a pillar of Pakistan's foreign policy. China strongly supported Pakistan's opposition to Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and was perceived by Pakistan as a regional counterweight to India and the USSR. The PRC and Pakistan also share a close military relation, with China supplying a range of modern armaments to the Pakistani defence forces. Lately, military cooperation has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. Chinese cooperation with Pakistan has reached high economic points with substantial investment from China in Pakistani infrastructural expansion, including the noted project in the Pakistani port in Gwadar.

Republic of India

Since independence, relations between Pakistan and India have been characterized by rivalry and suspicion. Although many issues divide the two countries, the most sensitive one since independence has been the status of Kashmir.

At the time of partition, the princely state of Kashmir, though ruled by a Hindu Maharajah, had an overwhelmingly Muslim population. When the Maharajah hesitated in acceding to either Pakistan or India in 1947, some of his Muslim subjects, aided by tribesmen from Pakistan, revolted in favor of joining Pakistan. India has long alleged that regular troops from Pakistan had participated in the partial occupation of Kashmir from the Western front. In exchange for military assistance in containing the revolt, the Kashmiri ruler offered his allegiance to India. Indian troops occupied the central & eastern portion of Kashmir, including its capital, Srinagar, while the west-north western part came under Pakistani control.

India addressed this dispute in the United Nations on January 1, 1948. One year later, the UN arranged a cease-fire along a line dividing Kashmir, but leaving the northern end of the line undemarcated and the vale of Kashmir (with the majority of the population) under Indian control. India and Pakistan agreed with Indian resolutions which called for an UN-supervised plebiscite to determine the state's future.

Full-scale hostilities erupted in September 1965, when insurgents who were trained and supplied by Pakistan were operating in India-controlled Kashmir. (See Operation Gibraltar) Hostilities ceased three weeks later, following mediation efforts by the UN and interested countries. In January 1966, Indian and Pakistani representatives met in Tashkent, U.S.S.R., and agreed to attempt a peaceful settlement of Kashmir and their other differences.

Following Pakistan's defeat in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Pakistan President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met in the mountain town of Shimla, India, in July 1972 for the Shimla Accord. They agreed to a line of control in Kashmir resulting from the December 17, 1971 cease-fire, and endorsed the principle of settlement of bilateral disputes through peaceful means. In 1974, Pakistan and India agreed to resume postal and telecommunications linkages, and to enact measures to facilitate travel. Trade and diplomatic relations were restored in 1976 after a hiatus of five years.

India's nuclear test in 1974 generated great uncertainty in Pakistan and is generally acknowledged to have been the impetus for Pakistan's nuclear weapons development program. In 1983, the Pakistani and Indian governments accused each other of aiding separatists in their respective countries, i.e., Sikhs in India's Punjab state and Sindhis in Pakistan's Sindh province. In April 1984, tensions erupted after troops were deployed to the Siachen Glacier, a high-altitude desolate area close to the China border left undemarcated by the cease-fire agreement (Karachi Agreement) signed by Pakistan and India in 1949.

Tensions diminished after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in November 1984 and after a group of Sikh hijackers was brought to trial by Pakistan in March 1985. In December 1985, President Zia and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi pledged not to attack each other's nuclear facilities. (A formal "no attack" agreement was signed in January 1991) In early 1986, the Indian and Pakistani governments began high-level talks to resolve the Siachen Glacier border dispute and to improve trade.

Bilateral tensions increased in early 1990, when Kashmiri militants began a campaign of violence against Indian Government authority in Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequent high-level bilateral meetings relieved the tensions between India and Pakistan, but relations worsened again after the destruction of the Babri Mosque by Hindu extremists in December 1992 and terrorist bombings in Bombay in March 1993. Talks between the Foreign Secretaries of both countries in January 1994 resulted in deadlock.

In the last several years, the Indo-Pakistani relationship has veered sharply between rapprochement and conflict. After taking office in February 1997, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif moved to resume official dialog with India. A number of meetings at the foreign secretary and prime ministerial level took place, with positive atmospherics but little concrete progress. The relationship improved markedly when Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee traveled to Lahore for a summit with Sharif in February 1999. There was considerable hope that the meeting could lead to a breakthrough. Unfortunately, in spring 1999 infiltrators from Pakistan occupied positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control in the remote, mountainous area of Kashmir near Kargil, threatening the ability of India to supply its forces on Siachen Glacier. By early summer, serious fighting flared in the Kargil sector. The fighting lasted about a month and Indian forces were able to push back the infiltrators (India accused that it was Pakistan's military which had occupied Indian posts in the region. Indian Army left their posts in winter). The Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif fearing that Indian Army might enter into Pakistan chasing the infiltrators held a meeting with the US president Bill Clinton in July and offered the withdrawal of Pakistan's army from remaining posts with India, which India later on accepted. The Kargil war was a severe blow to the image of Pakistan because of the army involvement in the war.

Relations between India and Pakistan have since been particularly strained, especially since the October 12, 1999 Pakistani coup d'ιtat in Islamabad. India has time and again alleged that Pakistan provides monetary and material support to Kashmiri terrorists, a charge which Pakistan has always denied. The last few years have been particularly cantankerous in this regard, with India accusing Pakistan of abetting cross-border terrorism from its territory. Pakistan claims to provide only moral support to the fighters and maintains that the conflict is indigenous in nature. However, many of the terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and others operating in Jammu and Kashmir have their offices in Pakistan. The terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar, released from the Indian prison in 1999 in exchange of Indian nationals, who were on board in an Indian Airlines Aeroplane, which was going to New Delhi from Kathmandu, Nepal. It was hijacked by four Militants (all Pakistani nationals, though Pakistan denied this) and was taken to Kandhar in Afghanistan. After release from the Indian prison, Maulana Masood Azhar made a public appearance in Pakistan and formed another terrorist outfit named Jaish-e-Mohammed. Hopes of peaceful resolution of issues through dialogue have met a stalemate a number of times over the issue. On June 20, 2004, both countries agreed to extend a nuclear testing ban and to set up a hotline between their foreign secretaries aimed at preventing misunderstandings that might lead to a nuclear war.

Pakistan shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan (also called the Durand Line). The border is poorly marked. The problem is exacerbated by close relations between the fiercely-independent Pashtun peoples who live on both sides of the border.

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Pakistani Government played a vital role in supporting the Afghan resistance movement and assisting Afghan refugees. After the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, Pakistan, with cooperation from the world community, continued to provide extensive support for displaced Afghans. In 1999, the United States provided approximately $70 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and Afghan refugees in Pakistan, mainly through multilateral organizations and NGOs.

The overthrow of the Taliban Regime in November 2001 has seen somewhat strained relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The present administration in Kabul feels that the remnants of the former Taliban government are being supported by certain factions within Pakistan.
A large share of Afghanistan's foreign trade is either with, or passes through, Pakistan.


Pakistan enjoys warm relations with Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan), despite the strained early days of their relationship. Landmarks in their reconciliation are:
• An August 1973 agreement between Bangladesh and Pakistan on the repatriation of numerous individuals, including 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war stranded in Bangladesh as a result of the 1971 conflict;
• A February 1974 accord by Bangladesh and Pakistan on mutual diplomatic recognition, followed more than 2 years later by establishment of formal diplomatic relations on January 18th 1976;
• The organization by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of an airlift that moved almost 250,000 Bengalis from Pakistan to Bangladesh, and non-Bengalis from Bangladesh to Pakistan; and
• Exchanges of high-level visits, including a visit by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Bangladesh in 1989 and visits by Prime Minister khalida Zia to Pakistan in 1992 and in 1995.
Still to be resolved are the division of assets from the pre-1971 period and the status of more than 250,000 non-Bengalis who are ethnically Biharis also known as Stranded Pakistanis remaining in Bangladesh but seeking resettlement in Pakistan.

Soviet Union/Russian Federation

Under military leader Ayub Khan, Pakistan sought to improve relations with the Soviet Union; trade and cultural exchanges between the two countries increased between 1966 and 1971. However, Soviet criticism of Pakistan's position in the 1971 war with India weakened bilateral relations, and many Pakistanis believed that the August 1971 Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation encouraged Indian belligerency. Subsequent Soviet arms sales to India, amounting to billions of dollars on concessional terms, reinforced this argument.

During the 1980s, tensions increased between the Soviet Union and Pakistan because of the latter's key role in helping to organize political and material support for the Afghan rebel forces. The withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and the collapse of the former Soviet Union resulted in significantly improved bilateral relations, but Pakistan's support for and recognition of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan remained an ongoing source of tension. Later on, government of Pakistan changed its policy towards Taliban when it joined US forces in helping to overthrow them following attacks in the US on the 11th of September 2001.

In 2007, the relations between Pakistan and the Russian Federation were reactivated after the 3-day official visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. He is the first Russian prime minister to visit Pakistan in the post Soviet Union era in 38 years. He had "in-depth discussions" with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The major focus of the visit was to improve bilateral relations with particular emphasis on ways and means to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries. During the visit, two Memorandum of understanding were signed, under an MOU, the Russian Federation will cooperate with Pakistan Railways for construction of new railway tracks, supply of sleepers and signaling system, up-gradation of a railway workshops and setting up of Metro Railways in major cities of Pakistan. Under another MOU, the two countries will work for promoting cultural, educational and scientific changes.


Historically, Iran was the first nation to recognize Pakistan. Since then, Pakistan has had close geopolitical and cultural-religious linkages with Iran. However, strains in the relationship appeared in the 1990s, when Pakistan and Iran supported opposing factions in the Afghan conflict. Also, some Pakistanis suspect Iranian support for the sectarian violence which has plagued Pakistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan pursues an active diplomatic relationship with Iran, including recent overtures to seek a negotiated settlement between Afghanistan's warring factions. Pakistan also supports Iran's use of Nuclear Technology for peaceful purposes. On January 27th 2006, Pakistan, Iran, and India agreed to start work on IPI gas line which Pakistan needs to shrink the gap of Demand and supply of energy in Pakistan to maintain economic growth.
North Korea

It is still not exactly clear when Pakistan opened diplomatic ties to North Korea. It is said to be somewhere in the 1970s. Recent developments indicate that their relations were kept secretive to avoid suspicion from the west and the risk of economic sanctions.

United Kingdom & Commonwealth

Pakistan has been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations since independence in 1947. It was not a member of the British Commonwealth from 1972 until 1989, because of the Commonwealth's recognition of Bangladesh. It was readmitted to full membership of the Commonwealth in October 1989. It was suspended with the overthrow of the democratically elected government in 1999. Its full membership has been reinstated with the backing of the United Kingdom and Australia for Pakistan's support in the War on Terrorism. Pakistan maintains diplomatic relations with all Commonwealth countries even though it does not have its own High Commission in each capital.
Persian Gulf and Arab states

Despite popular support by many people in Pakistan for Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War, the Pakistani government supported the coalition against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and sent 11,600 troops. Pakistan enjoys close ties with the governments of the Persian Gulf particularly Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan.

United States of America

Historically, no ally of the United States has faced as many sanctions from the US as Pakistan. The United States established diplomatic relations with Pakistan in 1949; reluctantly, at first. Since the Eisenhower administration, however, Pakistan and the US began developing more cosy relations. The American agreement to provide economic and military assistance to Pakistan and the latter's partnership in the Baghdad Pact, CENTO and SEATO strengthened relations between the two nations. At the time, its relationship with the U.S. was so close and friendly that it was called the United State’s "most-allied ally" in Asia. Pakistanis felt betrayed and ill-compensated for the risks incurred in supporting the U.S. - after the U-2 Crisis of 1960, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had threatened the nuclear annihilation of Pakistani cities. The U.S. suspension of military assistance during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war generated a widespread feeling in Pakistan that the United States was not a reliable ally. Even though the United States suspended military assistance to both countries involved in the conflict, the suspension of aid affected Pakistan much more severely. Gradually, relations improved and arms sales were renewed in 1975. Then, in April 1979, the United States cut off economic assistance to Pakistan, except food assistance, as required under the Symington Amendment to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, due to concerns about Pakistan's nuclear program.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 highlighted the common interest of Pakistan and the United States in peace and stability in South Asia. In 1981, the United States and Pakistan agreed on a $3.2-billion military and economic assistance program aimed at helping Pakistan deal with the heightened threat to security in the region and its economic development needs. With U.S. assistance - in the largest covert operation in history - Pakistan armed and supplied anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan, eventually defeating the Soviets, who withdrew in 1988.

Recognizing national security concerns and accepting Pakistan's assurances that it did not intend to construct a nuclear weapon, Congress waived restrictions (Symington Amendment) on military assistance to Pakistan. In March 1986, the two countries agreed on a second multi-year (FY 1988-93) $4-billion economic development and security assistance program. On October 1, 1990, however, the United States suspended all military assistance and new economic aid to Pakistan under the Pressler Amendment, which required that the President certify annually that Pakistan "does not possess a nuclear explosive device."

India's decision to conduct nuclear tests in May 1998 and Pakistan's matching response set back U.S. relations in the region, which had seen renewed U.S. Government interest during the second Clinton Administration. A presidential visit scheduled for the first quarter of 1998 was postponed and, under the Glenn Amendment, sanctions restricted the provision of credits, military sales, economic assistance, and loans to the government. An intensive dialogue on nuclear nonproliferation and security issues between Deputy Secretary Talbott and Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad was initiated, with discussions focusing on CTBT signature and ratification, FMCT negotiations, export controls, and a nuclear restraint regime. The October 1999 overthrow of the democratically elected Sharif government triggered an additional layer of sanctions under Section 508 of the Foreign Appropriations Act which include restrictions on foreign military financing and economic assistance. U.S. Government assistance to Pakistan was limited mainly to refugee and counter-narcotics assistance.

Pakistan moved decisively to ally itself with the United States in its war against Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. It provided the U.S. a number of military airports and bases, for its attack on Afghanistan. It has arrested over five hundred Al-Qaeda members and handed them over to the United States; senior U.S. officers have been lavish in their praise of Pakistani efforts. Since this strategic re-alignment towards U.S. policy, economic and military assistance has been flowing from the U.S. to Pakistan and sanctions have been lifted. In the three years before the attacks of September 11, Pakistan received approximately $9 million in American military aid. In the three years after, the number increased to $4.2 billion.

In June 2004, President Bush designated Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally, making it eligible, among other things, to purchase advanced American military technology. In May, 2006, The Bush administration announced a major sale of missiles to Pakistan, valued at $370 Million USD.

International disputes

• Durand line issue with Afghanistan.
• Status of Kashmir with the Indian Republic.
• Boundary issues in the Rann of Kutch and the Ferozepur and Pathankot issues of the Radcliffe Line with the Republic of India.
• Please note: northern boundaries have been in dispute more or less since the end of the colonial era in 1947. Maps representing a Pakistani perspective indicate the nation's boundaries (and the status of Kashmir) quite differently from maps representing the perspective of the Government of India. The matter both reflects and generates conflicts.
• Water-sharing problems with India over the Indus River (Wular Barrage)
• Illicit drugs
o Pakistan is also a producer of illicit opium and hashish for the international drug trade (poppy cultivation in 1999 - 15.7 km&sup2, a 48% drop from 1998 because of eradication and alternative development); key transit area for Southwest Asian heroin moving to Western markets; narcotics still move from Afghanistan into Balochistan, Pakistan.
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