More Action; Fewer Words: Pakistan’s Military Diplomacy

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) entitles Pakistan’s military diplomacy as “more action, fewer words”. Defence Diplomacy, usually termed as Military Diplomacy has been in vogue for quite some time now.  In today’s modern world, this has become even more crucial when you have to achieve national objectives like economy, diplomacy and security. These three strands have become interchangeable today because economy, diplomacy and security all depend on each other to achieve “soft power” goals of the state. The role of militaries then extends beyond the conventional hard power domain and puts them in supplementing national efforts as well to achieve national policy objectives. While considering the state of Pakistan and its geopolitical importance, Military diplomacy formula has played a pivotal role in fortifying our relations with foreign countries. The combined and bilateral military exercises with many countries such as US, Russia, China, Turkiye, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries have paved the way for achievement of economic, military and diplomatic objectives of the country, with an overall improvement in the bilateral relations. The Army leadership’s visits to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, China and many other countries have supplemented the achievement of prime national objectives. 

The recent visit of senior military officials headed by Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff and delegation containing officers from all three services, as part of the Pakistan China Joint Military Cooperation Committee (PCJMCC) is a testimony to the military diplomacy of the current leadership. According to the statement issued by the military’s media wing on the visit “Pakistan and China reaffirmed their strategic partnership in challenging times and agreed to continue regular exchange of perspectives on issues of mutual interest. Both sides also vowed to enhance their training, technology and counterterrorism cooperation at tri service level.” This is all due to the Military to Military Cooperation that spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang said in an official statement “General Bajwa is an extraordinary leader of Pakistan Army. He is old friend of Chinese government and the Chinese army. He made positive contributions for further development of China-Pakistan relations.” Military diplomacy with China took a new leap when General Bajwa after assuming command, visited China on an official invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is to be remembered that the 94th anniversary of the founding of Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) was commemorated at GHQ which was also an unprecedented event. However, the relations with China were being perceived to be turning a bit cold in the past government’s tenure because of the slow progress of work on CPEC Projects but this high level military delegation has also paved the way for a futuristic strategic partnership with China. In the evolving security milieu, the Pakistan-China strategic soft power partnership has become increasingly important for regional peace and stability and the big credit in building this soft power influence goes to General Bajwa’s doctrine of Military diplomacy. 

Defense diplomacy in Pakistan has predominantly complimented the state institutions in achieving national objectives by providing economic anchorage. The war against terrorism in Pakistan and the overall improvement of the internal security paradigm are success stories that have created a safe environment for foreign investment. Undoubtedly, a safe environment gives investors’ confidence and boosts the tourism industry. With the development of very low cost and highly needed dams through the Frontier Works Organization (FWO), providing security to the Chamalang Coals mines, raising special wings to protect CPEC routes and developing CPEC road infrastructure, it gave the government the coveted economic leverage. The construction work on CPEC may also be accredited to military diplomacy. FWO developed the Kartarpur Corridor connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan and Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak in India and continued to be the main organization for the construction of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. This led to better relationships with the Sikh community, improving image of Pakistan as a safe place for other religions, and also promoting the religious tourism in the process.

Despite all security efforts to create a stable peaceful environment in Pakistan, it seemed that international cricket would never resume in the country. Inviting military teams from Australia, England and Sri Lanka to play cricket, thus changed international perception and provided confidence to the international teams. This soft prong of Proactive Defence diplomacy paved the way for the return of international cricket in the country. Pakistan’s military diplomacy has been acknowledged closer to home as well. Peace in Afghanistan is always relevant to the stability inside Pakistan. The role of Pakistan’s military in aiding the Afghan Peace Process has been widely recognized by the Western dignitaries. Zalmay Khalilzaad, US Special peace envoy to Afghanistan, gave his acknowledgments to Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff. 

Defence diplomacy in Pakistan is thus more relevant than ever as these soft power tactics by the Pakistani military are contributing much in the national discourse.

Iqra Nasir
Iqra Nasir
Islamabad based Journalist and Host