Assertive Foreign Policy and Ingredients of Power


Fazal Ur Rehman
Realists believe in the supremacy of state and render states as rational actors. In their basic assumption, the leaders of the respective states are the products and representatives of their states. This naturally means that powerful states have powerful leaders. In this appraisal of state, they, however, seem to overlook one important reality: realists often undermine the inherent conflictand gappresent between the popular leaders and the respective socio-economic realities of their states. Here lies the importance of popular leaders and lies the limitation of realism. Such a gap and the importance of popular leaders can be best explained through the lens of social constructivism. History is replete with the examples of such a gap between the popular leaders and their own respective states. The examples of Stalin of USSR, Bhutto of Pakistan, and Castro of Cuba stand pertinent in this regard. They all were popular leaders and, in the wake of their popularity, they tried to dominate the respective foreign policies of their states. In doing so, they, on the one hand, didn’t focus much on the internal socio-economicrealities of their states rationally; and on the other hand, sent certain critical signals to foreign powers. In the sphere of international relations, the foreign powers perceive and construct the signals sent by the popular leaders in their own ways. For example, the signals sent by Stalin during the cold war were perceived differently by Americans from those sent by Malenkov. A particular thaw was observed in the relations between USA and former Soviet Union after the death of Stalin. The state was the same, but the leader got changed and hence the signals. So, the example of Stalin shows that popular leaders do matter in the realm of foreign policy and they exert certain influence. Often, the socio-economic power of states assume the secondary importance and the character of popular leader becomes the dominating factor for the foreign policy analysis of any country. However, the inherentgap between popular leaders and the realities of their states does present limitations for popular leaders. It is important to note that in the realm of foreign policy, the demeanor of popular leaders of developing countries and the developed countries differs. The difference lies in the constitution of power. ‘Power’ is a term relatively defined and different countries and leaders are powerful in different ways. Two important factors contribute to the power of developed states and their leaders: military capabilities and the economic prowess. For example, the power of USA, coupled with its soft power, primarily relies on its military and economic prowess. The leaders of USA and China can afford the luxury of taking assertive positions in their trade war. But the popular leaders of the developing countries face a different dilemma as they certainly can’t enjoy the backing of the traditional power and thegap between their assertive aspirations and the realities of their states presents certain challenges. What should popular leaders of the developing world do in the absence of the backing of traditional power? Should they abandon the path of assertive foreign policy? Abandoning the path of assertive foreign policy is certainly not the option. Recently, we have seen Imran khan’s assertiveness in his foreign policy. In the absence of traditional power, the undertaking of such assertiveness is undoubtedly highly commendable; but, will he meet the fate of his predecessor, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who also lacked the traditional power to carry on with his assertiveness? In order to avoid such a fate, he should derive his power from certain other factors. The leaders in the developing word do not have advanced military technologies or robust economic growth to rely on. As it is usually said that the foreign policy begins at home, this proverb stands more relevant for the leaders of developing countries. In the absence of these traditional ingredients of power, popular leaders have to adopt certain policies at home front to win external front and pursue assertive external policies. At home front, they should continuously seek for empowerment. In this regard, the power of the leaders of developing world can be constituted on four major inter-related ingredients. First, there should be clear enunciation of any critical foreign policy issue before the masses. No unnecessary restriction of information should be placed. The right to information should be delivered completely. Second, the effective input of masses on these issues through different mechanisms should be sought. Most importantly, this input should be communicated internationally with full confidence. Third, bipartisan consensus among the political stake holders should be achieved on critical foreign policy issues. For example, USA successfully pursued the policy of ‘Isolationism’ in nineteenth century because of the presence of the input of masses and bipartisan consensus of political leaders. In the presence of these three factors of power, European powerful nations never attempted seriously to intervene in the affairs of USA. Last but not the least, the backing of military intelligentsia is also important for completing the structure of power in developing countries. The working on these four factors is essential for any assertive policy. Such an undertaking of power doesn’t need economic prowess or technological advancement, but such an undertaking does empower the leaders of developing countries to speak confidently with the leaders of the developed countries. Such an undertaking of power by the popular leaders makes them escape certain traps. Leaders like Bhutto won the external front and bagged many achievements, but his power lacked all the above mentioned four factors of power and he fell domestically. The embracement of the four factors provides two basic benefits to leaders: the democratic support of the masses garners support of the internal opposition for popular leaders. Moreover, such a support makes it difficult for external powers to manipulate the domestic affairs through different proxies. In the world of mutually assured destruction, leaders and countries fall through proxy wars and not through full scale wars. Such an adoption of power makes leaders and countries escape the self-destructive policies and makes them follow the constructive external policy. In carrying forward the path of independent foreign policy,let’s see how popular leaderslike Imran Khanembrace the power with all it four basic ingredients.