Pakistan was born with the geographical misfortune to live between two countries who since their inception have harboured expansionist tendencies against Pakistan’s legally defined territory. India succeeded in first occupying parts of Kashmir which if given their UN mandated right to vote for their national self-determination, would almost certainly vote against being part of India. Then in 1971, India intervened in Pakistan’s internal political crisis in order to break East Pakistan away from West Pakistan, thus resulting in the birth of Bangladesh.
It was during this same period that the terrorist group BLA became active in Pakistan’s south-western Balochistan province. It is now common knowledge that the BLA has over the decades, received heavy backing from India and from multiple Afghan regimes. Finally, not a single Afghan regime has ever recognised the internationally accepted Durand Line as the legal border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As such, multiple Afghan regimes have invoked the aggressively anti-Pakistani concept of a “Greater Afghanistan”/”Greater Pashtunistan” in order to openly threaten Pakistan’s territorial integrity.
When one then realises that many members of India’s ruling BJP and their paramilitary partners in RSS continue to openly advocate for the expansionist concept of Akhand Bharat which if realised would literally eliminate Pakistan as a country, it becomes painfully obvious that Pakistan requires a more assertive style of diplomacy.
Of course, Pakistan wants peace as has been made abundantly clear by Islamabad’s handling of the recent crisis with India over events in Indian occupied Kashmir. It is equally obvious that for Pakistan, standing up for its interests is at all times compatible with an all-weather friendship with China, a strained but still active (and in many ways improving) relationship with the US, in addition to an improving relationship with Russia.
But in order to more robustly invoke diplomatic rhetoric backed by proportional action steps in the name of protecting Pakistan from Indian and Afghan derived threats to national security, Pakistan still has much to learn from its fraternal partner Turkey.
Turkey is a country that refuses to tolerate any threats to its security from any of its neighbours. This includes rare instances of state aggression and more commonly threats of terrorism that is either sponsored or accepted by entities within neighbouring states. In this sense, Pakistan could learn much from Turkish rhetoric on border security. Specifically, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long been able to skilfully balance tough rhetoric against regional threats whilst openly seeking healthy relations with the superpowers of China, the US and Russia. This does not always mean that Turkey is in full agreement with the three superpowers, but through mature diplomacy, Turkey has been able to navigate disagreements with superpower partners in a manner that aims for and tends to achieve win-win outcomes.
For example, Pakistan has yet to offer any meaningful response to the murder in cold blood of eight Pakistan civilians by Afghan security forces near to the Durand Line. All it would take is to conduct some standard military drills in the region for Kabul to get the message that Pakistani lives will be protected from state terrorism.
There is a clear template from Turkey involving both stern rhetoric and concrete action steps taken to both intimidate and neutralise security threats from which Pakistan can learn much. Pakistan has clearly out manoeuvred India when it comes to communicating a clear and unambiguous position in favour of peaceful regional relations, but naturally, the threats to Pakistan’s security remain.
Because of this, Pakistan must learn to welcome peace but to also communicate a message which makes it clear that the opposite of peace will not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. This itself will invoke Pakistan’s internal strength in order to secure a more sustainable peace on all sides of Pakistan’s borders.