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A New Geopolitical Change in Pakistan and the International Response to it. – The World Reporter
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A New Geopolitical Change in Pakistan and the International Response to it.



Source: The Independent

In a highly deserving event Pakistan experienced something which it had rarely ever seen. People of Pakistan and the world has new hopes with the new democratic government that will be formed as Nawaz Sharif has declared his victory. It is not the first time that a people elected democratic government has formed in Pakistan, but transfer of power from one democratic government to another democratic government after successfully completing its term has been rare in the history of Pakistan. Its neighbour in the west, Afghanistan, had also managed to hold election and form a democratic government and its neighbour in the east, India is considered as the largest democracy in the world.

We received mixed response from the people of Pakistan, some were disappointed with the results and some were optimistic. Many people believed Imran Khan could have been a good option as Pakistan has tried the other two major contending political parties. However, the experience which Nawaz Sharif carries in politics will help him to deal with a number of political problems that have been going on in Pakistan for a long time. There is a belief that Pakistan is seeing the rise of multiple power centres within itself, namely  Army, civil government, and various extremists and Islamists. Having said that, Nawaz Sharif is a strong leader and he has experienced how army interferes with the civil government, this would definitely help him to  neutralize other power centres.
Nawaz Sharif has made it clear that he doesn’t hold the whole organization of army responsible for the bloodless coup in 1999 which had ousted him as the prime minister. He holds only Gen. Pervez Musharraf as responsible because of whom he had to serve in jail and also had to live in exile. In an ironic turn of a page, today Gen. Pervez Musharraf is under house arrest after returning from self-imposed exile and Nawaz Sharif is the one who will decide whether to impose treason charges against Musharraf in Supreme Court.

Relations with India

Almost all the political parties in their manifesto mentioned good relations with India a high priority. Nawaz Sharif also considers good relation with India an important requirement. After Nawaz Sharif declared his victory in the general election, he had an extended phone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh charting a new course in relationship. 
Nawaz Sharif is in the favour of opening free trade with India. This will make way for Indian investments in Pakistan and vice verse increasing bilateral trade between the two countries. Pakistan’s banks and cement industry which produces cement in surplus will be most benefited along with the agriculture sector in Pakistan with this move. Also since most of the allies of Pakistan in the west are experiencing recession, it is unlikely that it will continue receiving large amount of economic aid from the west. In this case large Indian investment will help Pakistan improve its economic conditions. Good business ties have proved maintaining peace in the region as in the case of India and China.
Manmohan Singh was one of the first foreign leader to congratulate Nawaz Sharif on his victory, along with writing a letter, he also had a phone conversation with him. There is a new hope for warm ties between the two countries as Nawaz Sharif admitted that he has become more thoughtful after being in exile. His economy friendly mindset has already shown its vibrant colours as Karachi Stock Exchange crossed the 20,000 mark for the first time on Monday. After almost trying everything, only seriousness towards economy can help India and Pakistan come closer, as again in the case with India and China.
Pakistan’s large part of foreign policy has been India centric, its friends are also those who do not have close ties with India, like China and then US which has cold ties with India during cold war because of its slight degree of inclination towards Soviet Union. It cannot be interpreted how much freedom will Pakistani Army give to Nawaz Sharif in forming Pakistan’s India policy. As much of the Army’s budget is due to threat from India. However, Nawaz Sharif has made it clear that elected prime minister and not the unelected army chief is the ruler of the country. 
It is also debatable topic that Nawaz Sharif had information on Musharraf’s operation in Kargil where he sent the army across the line of control on the Indian side to illegally occupy the heights. Number of journalists and scholars have made claims on various television debates that then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had knowledge of army’s covert operation. However, it is a long debatable topic and no solid statement can be made related to it as of now.

Relations with Afghanistan

Nawaz Sharif has assured that Pakistan will help smooth exit of US troops from Afghanistan. Making healthy relationship with Afghanistan one of his priority, Nawaz Sharif vowed that he will take every possible step to improve the ties with its western neighbour. After his victory, Afghan President Karzai congratulated Sharif and hoped for better ties between the two brother countries.
Nawaz Sharif always believed in forming a Muslim bloc by uniting all Central Asian Muslim countries, Afghanistan being one of them. Before his second term, Taliban had already established itself as the government of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with its capital at Kandahar and continued receiving logistic support from the Pakistan state. 
So far Pakistan has supported the notion of talks with Taliban and Afghan government after the withdrawal of US forces keeping India at the bay. Current Afghan and Indian establishment do not support the inclusion of Taliban within the Afghanistan’s political system. There would hardly be any change in Pakistan’s policy in this regard, as Pakistan is interested in expanding its influence in Afghanistan through Taliban to minimize military expenditure on Afghan border and concentrate on Indian border. 

Relations with United States

Nawaz Sharif and United States has a history of cooperation, which however experienced a setback after Pakistan conducted its first nuclear test in May 1998. Now almost whole world has accepted Pakistan as an established nuclear country and new dimensions of cooperation have been created between the two countries. Compared to his main rival Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif did not raise much voice against US drone strikes, hence he is considered someone with whom United States can work with. 
Nawaz Sharif in a statement said that US should re-examine its drone campaign policy otherwise it would risk an increase in public anger against it. “The US may wish to re-examine its drone campaign or risk stoking the anti-Americanism that feeds Pakistani public anger.”

He referred to drone strikes as a challenge to sovereignty and said, “We will sit with our American friends and talk to them about this issue.”

Barrack Obama called Nawaz Sharif and congratulated him for his victory and congratulated people of Pakistan for successfully completion of democratic elections.

“The United States stands with all Pakistanis in welcoming this historic peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power, which is a significant milestone in Pakistan’s democratic progress,” the statement quoted the President as saying. He further added, “You have affirmed a commitment to democratic rule that will be critical to achieving peace and prosperity for all Pakistanis for years to come.”

United States, which had lot the trust of the previous government had started taking unilateral action on Pakistani soil for example the strike on May 2, which killed Osama Bin Laden. The US establishment which has welcomed the change in Pakistan would like to try and study the behaviour of Pakistani establishment for two to three years of his term. Therefore lesser drone strikes and unilateral action by the US is expected. 

Relations with Iran

Nawaz Sharif was the one who condemned Iraq for attacking Iran, this resulted into better relations with Iran at the cost of relations with Iraq. However, today the circumstances have changed and Nawaz Sharif might have different point of view on Iran. Having said that Pakistan and United States would like to take their close ties to a new level, it would not be a good news for Iran which is having a kind of conflict of words with the U.S. Although it is unlikely that Pakistan will provide any base or facility to America to conduct a operation in Iran, the relation between the two countries will still get deteriorated.

Nawaz Sharif spent nine years in exile in Saudi Arabia and developed close ties with the country’s leadership. This may case Nawaz Sharif to not to show much interest in Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Saudi Arabia had opposed Pakistan importing of natural gas from Iran pipeline when previous government went ahead with an agreement days before its term expired. Saudi Arabia is another big crude oil and gas exporter and it would like Pakistan to buy from it rather than Iran.

Nawaz Sharif will have to be careful in forming a solid middle east policy. If Nawaz Sharif listens to the US and Saudi Arabia, then Iran will lose confidence in Pakistan. And India, which is already increasing its presence in Iran and building roads and rail to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan, will take advantage of Pakistan’s negligence.

In this case Nawaz Sharif should consider opening land route for India to Afghanistan and Central Asia, this way India will lose interest in creating a land-sea corridor via Iran to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Land route via Pakistan will be much economical for India and beneficial for Pakistan as it can tax Indian vehicles plying on its soil.

Relations with China

Pakistan has always shared good relations with China. As said earlier, Pakistan’s foreign policy has been India centric and one of the reason China is its friend because China shares cold ties with India.

Beijing’s reaction on Sharif’s victory was too plain and restrained. There was no formal statement by any Chinese leader directly to Nawaz Sharif congratulating him on his election victory. It was only Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei who expressed his satisfaction on smooth conduction of democratic elections in Pakistan. Surprising, because China rarely ever had any democratic election.

“China is glad to see that Pakistan’s general elections have been smoothly held,” Hong said. Later Official Xinhua news agency also quoted him saying “We are convinced that with joint efforts, the China-Pakistan strategic cooperative partnership will be lifted to a new level”.

Although China’s behaviour is so unexpected, which has always been the case with China, there is hardly any possibility of low level of ties between these two countries as both needs each other to check India. To name China doesn’t have many good friends which it can consider all-weather friend. China maintains very limited relations with other countries limited only to exports or taking contracts to build infrastructure. At this, losing Pakistan which considers it as an all weather friend and super power would not be in the China’s interest.

Hong Lei also announced that Chinese premier Li Keqiang will be visiting Pakistan after touring India from May 19 and before leaving for Germany and Switzerland. This would be the first meeting between the two new leaders and we will wait and compare the level of talks between India-China and China-Pakistan.

Response of other major countries 

Most of the Islamic world was quick to acknowledge this victory and convey their greetings to the new leader of Pakistan.

President of United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ameers of Qatar and Kuwait  congratulated Nawaz Sharif for his victory in the successful democratic elections. Iranian President Mehmood Ahmadinejad, and Turkish President Abdulallah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyeb Ardugan also conveyed his greetings to Nawaz Sharif along with Deputy Prime Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prince Maqran Bin Abdul Aziz who called Nawaz Sharif to greet him with good wishes. British Prime MInister, David Cameron also congratulated him and praised him for his commitment for prioritizing economic reforms.

Challenges in front of Nawaz Sharif

One of the major challenge in front of Nawaz Sharif is improving his image in the southern states of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif, in his previous terms, was often accused of giving more stress on infrastructure and beautification in his native Punjab and Kashmir while neglecting other states like Sindh, Balochistan.

Nawaz Sharif has assured that his party PML-N has a very ambitious agenda and in the coming first 100 days of his rule he would come out with policies on all major issues challenging Pakistan, such as terrorism, energy crisis and the economy. On the issue of internal security and terrorism he said that he will devise a national policy on terrorism consulting every political party.

For us it will be interesting to see how Pakistan’s economy and foreign policy performs in the coming one or two years. We may expect Nawaz Sharif visiting India and European countries within a year of his term. He has gained the victory with almost majority which will give him confidence to take even risky steps.

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