The role of a semi-specialist focal person assigned to deal with foreign affairs of a state emerged after Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Prior to that the monarch, from amongst his bevy of courtiers, authorised a representative to parley foreign matters irrespective of relevance of his credentials. With the passage of time this office assumed importance owing to the frequent state of war countries found themselves in. The crowning glory of this office is attributed to the celebrated status acquired by Metternich of Austria, de Talleyrand-Perigord of France and Castlereagh of Britain due to their diplomatic peregrinations at the Congress of Vienna after fall of Napoleon’s Empire resulting in formation of Concert of Europe, precursor to the modern multilateral world.
The significance of this office could be gauged from the fact that many of its incumbents considered themselves close to the position of the Prime Minister and in most cases it happened. Almost one third of its incumbents (17) in the UK rose to become Prime Ministers and in the US, from 1789 to early 1920s the office of Secretary of State was also held by future Presidents like Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Van Buren, Buchanan and Polk. In India Nehru retained portfolio of Foreign Minister for the entirety of his 17 years as prime minister and out of 15 prime ministers of India, nine held the office of foreign minister at some point in their political careers: Nehru, Gulzarilal Nanda, Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh, Narasimha Rao, IK Gujral and Manmohan Singh.
In Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Bogra, Feroz Khan Noon and ZA Bhutto rose to the prime ministerial office after remaining foreign ministers of Pakistan. At the inception of the country this office was held by PM Liaqat Ali Khan till Quaid-e–Azam specifically nominated Ch. Sir Zafarullah Khan, a lawyer, trained in British colonial administration to the position who remained foreign minister for seven initial years of Pakistan. He is credited with steering Pakistani foreign policy towards is pro-Western axis and remained so till the advent of ZA Bhutto.
He was followed by Muhammad Ali Bogra and Hamidul Haq Chaudhry (both Bengalis) and Feroz Khan Noon before military began asserting its influence on foreign policy. Ayub era saw Manzur Qadir, a brilliant lawyer to head foreign office who however paled in comparison to ZA Bhutto, another lawyer. Ayub also briefly brought back Bogra and employed ‘Jadoogar of Jeddah’ Sharifuddin Pirzada, a lawyer, and Mian Arshad Hussain, a bureaucrat.
Bhutto would not allow the inherent strength of this office to be exploited by anyone other than himself and ran the office with assistance of Aziz Ahmed, a bureaucrat, becoming the longest serving foreign minister of Pakistan. Zia-ul-Haq was acutely aware of the magnetic pull of foreign affairs and tightly controlled it through bureaucrat Agha Shahi and groomed an army general to take it over which Sahibzada Yaqub eventually did and retained it for second longest time in Pakistan.
The reservations of political leadership about the self perpetuating nature of this office was not out of place as subsequent political appointees tried to carve a separate niche for themselves once made foreign minister. Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali, a very average politician, tried to project himself a national personality far higher than his stature and same was the case with Khurshid Kasuri, a singularly uncharismatic politician. The unscrupulous ambition of Shah Mahmood Qureshi was given a fillip by this office when his childish remark surprisingly tickled the fancy of dour Hillary Clinton! Hina Khar’s brief sojourn catapulted her into a world level personality who, after shooting her in foot, was cut down to size by shrewd co-Chairperson Asif Zardari.
The perceptive changes in international relations reflecting evolution and spread of democratic values are functionally different from Cold War although the Cold War era strategic thinking still influences both civil and military policy framers of Pakistan. After the end of Second World War the US relentlessly ventured to widen democracy in Western Europe simply because it was the creed western world fought for and succeeded in democratising West Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Democracy may not be a panacea for national ills but it is supported by powerful empirical evidence suggesting that established democracies pursuing policies based on consensus and peaceful competition avoid war with each other. Notwithstanding Chinese model of development often considered an exception, democracies practicing freedom of expression and learning, liberal innovation, equality before rule of law, pluralism preserving human assets comprising of women and ethnic/religious groups, that bring higher rates of economic prosperity and facilitate long term economic growth.
But during the struggle between US and USSR, the US led western democracies often supported dictatorships in the developing world. However the self defeating complexities of supporting non representative dispensations forced US policy imperatives to abandon such shortsighted measures resulting in nudging East Asian totalitarian regimes like Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines towards democracy along with getting Chile rid of General Pinochet. The post Cold War world also witnessed rise of Islamic militarism that required galvanizing indigenous support in Muslim world to counter it. The ongoing struggle to usher in democratic dispensations is witnessed in decimation of dictatorial regimes in Iraq, Libya, Tunisia and Pakistan and rest of the arbitrary forces are feeling heat of the struggle. Although the emerging scenario is very complex involving hard resisting forces in Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt with democratic regime in Iraq facing renewed insurgency but the steadfast pro democracy campaign is continuing.
The internal challenge encountered by political forces in Pakistan reveal a deep ideological divide requiring waging of a long term struggle. Political forces are dazed by recent blatant attacks by the arbitrary forces but have no alternative but to persevere and proceed ahead. Viewed in this backdrop the foreign policy imperatives laid before Pakistan consist of shunning deep seated Cold War perceptions, aligning foreign policy with ground realities and abandoning security induced bureaucratic policy ideas.
To begin with personnel change at the helm of foreign policy making may be initiated reflecting genuine democratic change of guard. It is important to assign policy making responsibility to incumbents having undeniable connection with ground realities and bearing political commitment. The time is ripe for out of box thinking carefully choreographed for general acceptability. TW