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Bhutto’s Concept of Bilateralism

Bilateralism generally refers to theundertaking of the two sides equally, and politically it defines keeping equal relations with the two world powers, independent of their relation with other countries. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assumed the leadership of Pakistan at the hour when it became deprived of its eastern wing and, Pakistan was facing the gravest of its crisis and the nation was in a very low morale. He adopted an independent a foreign policy which was meant to liberate Pakistan from the dependence of US and it proved successful in its agenda. Before Pakistan was a strong allay of US sponsored alliance system that was meant to contain the influence of Soviet communism.  Indian armies were not forbidden by the US to enter in the civil war and thus US despite of being the most reliable ally of Pakistan could not help to retain the status quo of Pakistan during the dismemberment of the east wing. This event lit a spark in the thinking of the political elite of Pakistan and led the then leadership of Pakistan to start a policy of bilateralism.


Pakistan joined the alliance system to secure some guarantees from US to stop any aggression from India, but the basic irony was that the US was only interested in the checking of communism so the system did not secure the interests of the Pakistan per se. Z. A. Bhutto after assuming the leadership resolved to diversify the options for Pakistani foreign policy crafted it on the basis of Bilateralism which meant that Pakistan would pursue an independent foreign policy which was not connected with any other country’s interest. The new foreign policy would aim to construct bilateral relations without interference from any outside power. With his sheer political consciousness and considerable public experience, he intended to build the morale of the country and its people who had undergone such a severe trauma of losing one of its parts. Within the few months after such a catastrophe, Bhutto designed the foreign policy of Pakistan on new lines according to its real interests. Despite the criticism of his contemporary political elite, he exercised the office of the prime minister as well as the foreign officer. In his own words ‘bilateralism doesn’t experience any confusion in the context of foreign policy of Pakistan ’. In his article, “Bilateralism: New Horizons” published by the Pakistan institute of the international affairs he argues that the alliance system in order to gain interests doesn’t need to be justified. He is of the view that to practice bilateralism it is necessary to examine the transformations in the global environment in the nascence, early development and maturity of Pakistan as a state.


Bhutto as the man of great diplomatic skills initiated a new foreign policy towards India after the debacle in Bangladesh. He after long deliberation applied the bilateralism on Pakistan and india relation and accepted longstanding Indian demand to settle all outstanding issues between the two countries without intervention of any third country, but bilaterally. He accepted the terms of the Simla accord in meetings with Indra Gandhi, the then prime minister of India. He abandoned the Kashmir issue and ignored the Bengal as the former part of Pakistan.  A critic on his foreign policy towards India said that Indra and he were the classmates at Oxford University which led to the formulation of policies on the personal basis and not on the national basis. Before it, he was, in the era of Ayub khan who advocated the cause of the Kashmiris. The matter of the fact is that he did not abandon the Kashmir but accepted the fact that only two countries can solve the matter as previously the U.N.O. and other big powers failed to settle the Kashmir Issues, in spite of two wars.


Bhutto also applied his theory of bilateralism to diversify Pakistan’s foreign policy. He initiated many systematic steps to approach the leaders of Third world and Muslim countries. In this way he did not follow the US lines to start this program; in this way Pakistan was able to foster very cordial relations with countries like Syria and Libya which were not considered to be US ally. Now the Arab cause and the issue of racism of the Africans alter the attitudes of Pakistan in the international politics and govern the patterns of the relationships. After the Second World War, the bipolarity of the world gave birth to the idea of non-alignment( a balancing force)from adhering to the super powers and retaining own dignity and it was adopted by majority of Asian-African states which did not want to be labeled as allay. Bilateralism was however not incompatible in developing multilateral relations with the other eastern states lessening the impact of united states on foreign policy of Pakistan. Bhutto advocated the argument that the bilateralism helped Pakistan to escape the through the disloyal shoals and currents that hazarded the passage of by design placed states in the complex.


In the wake of his “bilateralism” it was assumed that Pakistan would cease to be a part of cold war era alliance system and would develop equal relations with capitalist as well as communist states. In this way Z. A. Bhutto visited the Soviet Union and was able to start a new era of friendship with the Communist state which gave Pakistan its biggest industrial unit i.e Te Steel Mill of Pakistan. Pakistan started to strengthen its relations with China; Eastern Europe as well as North Korea. He also proceeded to withdraw from the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO). The association of Pakistan in the Commonwealth of Nations was also ended but the membership in Central Treaty Organization was retained as it manifested the feeling of friendship of Pakistan with Iran and turkey. In this way Pakistan had diversified its foreign policy options towards communist block and towards the Islamic world and the success of Lahore summit 1974 further encouraged Bhutto to develop friendly relations with the rest of the world. Bangladesh was also recognized by Pakistan in Lahore summit 1974 and relations with the middle-east countries were strengthened. It induced in Bhutto that he could manage the security of Pakistan without the help of Washington.


Bhutto was well aware of the geo-political position of Pakistan and was familiar with the fact that keeping friendly terms with oil producing countries will provide economic boost to Pakistan. The other important postulates of Bhutto’s bilateralism were  solidarity among the Afro-Asian states, ineffectiveness of armorrace, especially of Indian ocean as nuclear free zone, non-alignment with the great power by developing a unique economic system among the third world countries.


To conclude the essay it can be assumed that while Bhutto’s Bilateralism helped Pakistan to redefine the contours of its foreign policy and Pakistan was able to follow relatively independent foreign policy, but Bhutto’s bilateralism failed to achieve its objective vis a vis India and resolution of longstanding dispute with it. The Kashmir issue was put in cold store and no meaningful progress was made on it. And lastly, Z. A. Bhutto paid the price of its bilateralism when he was failed to get any moral and political support from western powers during his long trial in courts of Pakistan which eventually ended in his execution.

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