Jinnah’s Vision of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Where Did We Go Wrong?

“Pakistan has come to exist for ever” were the words of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah once he was sworn in as the first Governor-General of the newly born state of Pakistan on the 14th of August 1947. The emergence of this state was nothing short of a miracle as a congregation of people worked tirelessly to give practical meaning to their ideology which was shared by a fraction of Indians living in the united subcontinent. Being a new state, Pakistan had to find its place in the world, develop relations with various neighbours, which on the surface seemed to be potential friends, and formulate specific policies for the forces that threatened to undermine its existence. In that regard, Jinnah’s vision was very clear which could be gauged from a broadcast talk to the people of the United States (US) in February 1948: “Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.”

One of the first foreign policy decisions taken by the emergent state was the Quaid’s effort to procure the membership of the United Nations (UN) in September 1947 so that Pakistan could gain recognition and support from other countries of the world. The decision came as a prelude to the larger role which Pakistan was destined to play in the organisation for the “promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world” as intended by Jinnah.

In his position as the Governor-General of Pakistan, Jinnah provided his unflinching support to the Palestinian cause and vehemently opposed the French occupation of the North African Arab territories. Likewise, he expressed his opposition for the Dutch attack on Indonesia by refusing transit facilities to the Dutch military planes and ships and promised to provide all diplomatic and material assistance to the freedom movements of other Muslim states such as Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Malaya and Morocco.

Even in the case of India which threatened to overrun Pakistan, Jinnah proposed a joint defence plan in a bid to “maintain cordial relations with its neighbours and the world at large.” The aforesaid examples were just a practical manifestation of Quaid’s larger ideology of “peace within and peace without.”

More recently, in line with Quaid’s “enmity with none, and peace with all” principle, Pakistan refrained from choosing sides during the Yemen conflict and offered to deescalate tensions between Iran and the US over the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Echoing the Quaid’s vision, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that “Pakistan will become a country which will make peace among states.”

Similarly, Pakistan’s role in easing the start of reconciliation talks between the Taliban insurgent group and the Kabul government to reach a political settlement to end the four decades of hostilities in its troublesome neighbour Afghanistan is noteworthy. Islamabad’s part in this regard was also appreciated by the government in Washington.

In addition, Pakistan’s firm belief in the protection of universal human rights and goodwill towards other nations of the world is further reaffirmed by the provision of more than 6000 military and police officers to the UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world making it one of the largest contributors. Pakistan also continues to highlight the plight of oppressed human beings whether they be in Kashmir, Palestine, or Myanmar on international and regional forums alike, calling all oppressors to put an end to such atrocities.

On the Indian front, incidents like the swift return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in the aftermath of the Pulwama debacle and the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate the arrival of Sikh pilgrims in the country can be termed as “peaceful gestures” in line with the founding father’s dream.

The country’s history has been chequered with instances where the Quaid’s vision has been strictly adhered to and others, where his ideals have been conveniently side-stepped in the name of national security and the broader national interest.

As evident from all the examples above, the desire for “peace” resonates in Quaid’s speeches and Pakistan in recent years has tried to uphold this ideal. However, it has been largely unsuccessful on multiple fronts as well. For instance, instead of being known as a peace-loving country, Pakistan is labelled as the “mothership of terrorism”. Its placement in the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list has further destroyed its credibility globally.

Moreover, the country’s silence on matters such as the treatment of the Uighur Muslims in the Chinese Xinjiang region and the decision to cancel a scheduled trip to the Kuala Lumpur Summit invited rampant criticism from the masses. It also showed how Pakistan had diverged from the Quaid’s vision of always standing up for the downtrodden and playing a uniting role within the Muslim countries of the world.

Historically, instead of opting for a neutral stance and diffusing tensions between the two superpowers during the Cold War, Pakistan hurtled towards the US. When such an opportunity presented itself again in the form of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan, once again, became a frontline state in opposing the big red menace thereby promoting more violence and bloodshed throughout the region. Pakistan had once more, very conveniently abandoned Jinnah’s ideology in pursuit of its national security interests.

Similarly, after the 9/11 incident, Pakistan took a swift U-turn to pursue a policy of full cooperation with the US thereby completely abandoning the Taliban in Afghanistan and becoming crippled by terrorism in the aftermath. Additionally, Pakistan fought three full-scale wars with India instead of resorting to diplomatic channels for a peaceful resolution of disputes and refused to recognise the newly independent state of Bangladesh.

Considering the discussion above it can be concluded that 73 years later, the country’s history has been chequered with instances where the Quaid’s vision has been strictly adhered to and others, where his ideals have been conveniently side-stepped in the name of national security and the broader national interest. Today, politicians, bureaucrats, armed personnel, and other important stakeholders quote separate rubrics from Jinnah’s speeches to further their own perceived ideologies. This exactly is where we have gone wrong.

One can argue that the challenges faced by Pakistan during Jinnah’s tenure as the Governor-General were quite different from what it faces today. However, many of the old conflicts have either taken a new shape (US’ tussle with China for global supremacy as opposed to the Soviet Union) or have not been resolved till now (Palestinian question).

Regardless, one wonders, what would Jinnah have done had he been alive in the contemporary political scenario? Would he have adhered to his own ideals of peaceful coexistence and friendly relations with all even in the face of the larger Saudi-Iranian rivalry or Indian atrocities in Kashmir? It seems that the need of the hour is to go back to the drawing board first to understand Jinnah’s foreign policy vision objectively and then formulate relevant policies in light of that concept.

Zarmina Khan

Zarmina Khan

Zarmina Khan is a visiting faculty member at Quaid-e-Azam University and the National Defence University. She did her MPhil from Quaid-e-Azam University with distinction.

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