Imran Khan’s hard working ethos whether in Islamabad or on his frequent visits to fellow heads of government and heads of state, has been a welcome breath of fresh air when contrasted with many of his more lethargic predecessors. But while Imran has built bridges to valued partners whilst strengthening ties to all–weather friends, he has in fact done something even more important than this.
Many bilateral meetings between national leaders result either in an exchange of warm words or at best, vague memoranda of understanding. But when Imran visits world leaders, he comes back with money for the nation, investment packages that will revitalise the long term sustainable growth of the country, as well as commitments to expand trade and bilateral capital exchange.
When Imran met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing pledged to further aid the Pakistani economy through both direct cash injections and long term joint development schemes that build upon the early stage successes of CPEC’s development. Much of Pakistan’s anti-Imran media were left with egg on their faces after the Prime Minister departed China because they mistook the fact that no formal announcements were made regarding the deal Imran clenched at the time, for an absence of any deal.
Imran Khan later explained that China did not seek to disclose the agreement and that he respected this. Furthermore, China had a clear reason for doing so. While China cannot and does not want to act like a one-nation IMF, China also knows that some of Pakistan’s development goals would be stifled by the terms of a new IMF loan. Therefore, China is monitoring the situation carefully whilst contributing to the easing of Pakistan’s current account deficit left by the previous government, in a manner that is businesslike rather than one which embraces grandstanding over efficacy.
After Imran’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, he returned with a $6 billion package including both a cash injection and a deferred oil payments scheme. When Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman calls on Imran in the very near future, both sides look to clench a major deal for Riyadh to build an oil refinery at Gwadar.
But the whirlwind pace did not stop there. After hosting Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Imran secured a further cash injection for Pakistan’s economy from the UAE, whilst his meeting in Turkey was met with a pledge by President Erdoğan to substantially increased levels of bilateral trade. As Erdoğan’s track record shows, when he vows to increase trade, he clearly delivers as recent trends in respect of Turkey’s trade and economic development initiatives with China, Russia, Iran and the EU demonstrate.
Based on this record, one can be confident that when Imran visits Qatar on the 21st of January, he will not leave empty handed. Not only has Imran Khan demonstrated the ability to make every foreign visit and hosting of a foreign leader count for Pakistan, but he has done so in a manner that refrains from taking sides in the disputes among some of Pakistan’s partners. Therefore, whilst Pakistan remains on good terms with Qatar and Turkey on the one hand, Pakistan is on equally good terms with Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the other. By positioning Pakistan as a country that will not meddle in the disputes of others, Imran has made it so that Pakistan is increasingly look to for solutions to foreign crises. Because of this, it has been mooted that Pakistan can play a positive diplomatic role in de-escalating the situation in Yemen, whilst on the other hand, Imran Khan has helped to begin internationalising awareness of the plight of Kashmiris by mentioning an issue which ought to unite the Ummah in front of the globally influential Turkish President.
Imran Khan inherited a country with an economic crisis caused by years of political neglect. He however also inherited a country more at peace with itself than at any time in decades and thus, a country that is hungry for positive change through sustained development. Pakistan’s climatic diversity, its game changing CPEC, its young workforce, the preponderance of English in high levels of business and certain areas of government, as well as a collective desire to reject the failed economic dogmas of the past, all make Pakistan a valuable long term economic partner. By conveying this message to Pakistan’s new and existing partners with clarity and realism, Imran Khan is literally the gift that keeps on receiving a maximum amount of international support for his country through valued partnerships that will only strengthen as Pakistan’s economy grows.