Pakistan’s political instability and its inability to achieve any strategic coherence in the past 75 years since its independence indicate that its foreign policy has always been short-sighted. Analysis of Pakistan’s foreign policy since 1947 shows a clear pattern of aligning itself with any country that could provide it with economic and military support at that particular moment. It has been in a perpetual state of strategic dilemma which it has not been able to resolve due to its internal insecurity, governance issues and a tendency to completely depend on its benefactor at the time.
Since the 1950s, Pakistan has been west-inclining despite claiming a neutral and non-aligned stance. Pakistan’s military-political elites are suffering from a colonial hangover, thinking and working only within the frameworks of British traditions and culture. The dethroning of former Prime minister Imran Khan has been an open declaration of Pakistani elites of their affinity for the US and the west. To appease the US and to maintain good relations with it in a time of difficult situation which is a little short of an economic crisis, Pakistan has been forced to supply weapons to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.
As Ukraine’s ammunition supply from NATO depletes, Pakistan has stepped up to supply it with a fresh batch of shells, artillery and other weapons. Recently, it was reported that Pakistan has already supplied 10,000 units of rockets via a German port. With the UK signing an agreement with Pakistan to supply ammunition including artillery rockets to Ukraine, an air bridge from Pakistan to Ukraine via UK’s base in the Mediterranean, Poland and Romania has been in active use.
According to a recent article published in a Russian news platform Riafan.ru, in February 2023, the UK Department of Defense signed an agreement with Pakistani ammunition factories to send 162 containers full of artillery shells from the port of Karachi to Ukraine via Germany. In addition, Pakistan will also export the man-portable anti-aircraft missile system Anza-Mark-II. In return, Ukraine would assist Pakistan in upgrading its Mi-17 helicopters. A Ukrainian manufacturing firm for aircraft engines and industrial marine gas turbines is assisting Pakistan with this project.
While Pakistan has tended to support the US and its allies, it is also no secret that it has occasionally attempted to mediate agreements with Russia and the former USSR. The value of bilateral trade with Russia in 2021 alone was US$388.492 million, compared to $1.6 billion in trade between Pakistan and Ukraine between 1991 and 2020. Pakistan has agreed to provide military hardware and ammunition to the Ukrainian armed forces at the same time that Pakistani officials are preparing to negotiate a contract with the Russians for cheap crude oil and diesel that would satisfy Pakistan’s energy requirements. It is worth noting that this is the first contract that Russia and Pakistan would sign in the oil and energy industries.
Pakistan has also abstained from voting against Russia in the UN since the Russo-Ukraine war started last year in February. The abstention from anti-Russia sanctions stems from the fact that China, through the CPEC and other infrastructure-related projects in Gwadar and other locations, is one of the largest investors in Pakistan. China has made its stance clear in the conflict through the recently concluded talks in Moscow’s Kremlin. However, Pakistan’s absence in the SCO meet held on February 8th, 2023 did raise eyebrows and is seen by political experts as a ‘slight to Moscow’ against the backdrop of its growing engagement with Ukraine. It has also come to light that a gas pipeline from Karachi to Peshawar, in which Russia is involved too, has been indefinitely postponed.
Pakistan’s supply of arms and ammunition to Ukraine at the same time as it’s about to finalize the deal with Moscow for discounted oil shows an absolute lack of direction in its foreign policy. With a failing economy and being over-dependent on other nations, Pakistan is weak and on the verge of losing its sovereignty. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves fell to only $4.5 billion by January 2nd week. Hence, Pakistan’s not-so-secret supply of ammunition to the US-backed Ukraine arises a little possibility that financial aid would be coming to save it from defaulting from the external debts. The country’s political elites are playing a dangerous double game that will have dire consequences for the common man of Pakistan.