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Despite being challenged by the forces of globalization, nation-state is still a key player in the current international system. Having eclipsed all other types of politico-military rule that have existed on the planet, nation-states are, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, the basic building blocks of the global order. Today, every square mile of land surface of the planet Earth, except Antarctica, falls within the exclusive domain of one nation-state or another. In fact, the nation-state as a form of politico-military rule has become so ubiquitous that its existence is taken for granted and is rarely noticed even by scholars of international relations. In the present-day world, in spite of enormous, far-reaching changes in the global and regional context, it has successfully maintained its centrality in the international system in which the states operate.
The rise of the notion of popular sovereignty during the late eighteenth century began to transform the nation-state system into the present global order in which the state, based on some type of popular sovereignty, is the only legitimate entity. But, today, a state can no longer say that it makes independent decisions and that it is sovereign in the true sense of the term. Likewise, it cannot claim that there is no powerful authority above the state. It means that a state is not the only institution that claims monopoly on the use of weapons and other instruments of power.
The role of the state has also seen a dramatic transformation after the emergence of modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) which have posed new challenges to the sovereignty of the state. Now a state can use Internet-based communications systems to weaken its enemy state without sending its own troops to the latter’s territory. Similarly, the ability of non-state players to assert their power and use force against the state and other opponents has further challenged the classical notion of nation-state.
Keeping in view the profound changes in the system in which states operate, it can be said that the most important factors that shape the functioning of the state are the internal ones. Today, it is no less than imperative that the rulers of a state should run its affairs in such a way that a relationship of trust between the government and the people is established. This demands that a large segment of the population must be provided basic services for human welfare. And a state that fulfils this primary responsibility is unlikely to face severe internal turmoil.
The recent history of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the countries that have been badly affected by internal strife and external military intervention, offers many lessons all developing countries, including Pakistan, should learn. Two most important lessons are:
1. Real power of a state comes from within; it cannot pursue independent policies unless it has internal political harmony and economic stability. If a country is isolated in the global system, hostile states or non-state elements will pounce upon the opportunity to cash it by taking advantage of such a state’s internal weaknesses.
2. The rulers of a state must work for the voluntary, not forced, loyalty of the citizens to the state. The citizens should respect the state, not fear it.
The importance of internal economic and political factors for the security and stability of a state has increased manifolds due, mainly, to the changes in the world system since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. With the rise of the United States as the sole superpower, the world entered a changed global system. But, by the beginning of the 21st century, the US dominance over the international system began to wane. By around 2015, two interconnected trends emerged as salient features of the global system owing to the inability of the United States to assert its commanding role in the international system and the emergence of multiple centres of power in the global system. Hence, once again, the world system became multipolar which was different from the previous one in the sense that the United States, despite having a strong military and economic power on the world stage, had greatly diminished its ability to adapt the international system to its priorities. It now needed support from the other centres of power that had emerged globally, such as the European Union, China, Japan and emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region. On the other hand, China’s economic linkages with Russia and its economic investment policy added an impetus to its diplomatic influence in various regions of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
So, it can be argued with a great sense of certainty that the countries that have gained prominence in the current international system enjoy internal political harmony and economic stability that have transformed them into a prized hub of investment, trade, technology transfer and trained manpower. On the other hand, the countries that failed to develop in these domains were pushed to the brink of the international system as they wield no importance in the contemporary world affairs. This happened because internal political and social conflicts as well as economic stagnation compelled these countries, for their survival, to seek financial help from other countries. Reliance on external sources for economic survival diminished their ability to pursue an independent foreign policy and their influence in the international system diminished.
Let’s apply this lesson of global politics to Pakistan to understand why it is difficult for the country to get support for its foreign policy and security agenda. Why has it become difficult for Pakistan to mobilize most of the Muslim countries for its issues and problems with India especially regarding Pakistan’s viewpoint on Kashmir?
Pakistan’s internal situation is marred by two obstacles that have weakened the country’s ability to take independent decisions on various issues of domestic and foreign policy. Internal politics is divided and political parties are engaged in a fierce struggle for power as both the government and the opposition parties want to weaken each other at any cost and their narrow party and personal interests prevail over all national interest. It has led to chaos and conflict and has made it difficult for the governments to adopt realistic, not populist, strategies to overcome these problems.
Another impediment to the Pakistan’s progress is its heavy economic dependence on external sources. The country relies heavily on financial loans and assistance from friendly countries like Saudi Arabia, China, UAE and international financial institutions. It also relies on the United States and European states for economic assistance and favourable trade conditions.
Another source of financial support is remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis. If Pakistan’s economy continues to rely heavily on external sources for its survival, it will push itself into a corner internationally.
Another factor that adversely affects Pakistan’s performance at the international level is the growing public dissatisfaction with the state’s economic and social policies. An ever-growing inflation and skyrocketing prices of even essential commodities have led an outrage and discontent among the people. If Imran Khan’s government could not rein in inflation, the new government, too, has failed to do so. This state of despair at the grassroots level is creating political alienation in the society. The interest of the people in the country’s governance system is rapidly declining because they think that no matter who rules Pakistan, their situation will not improve.
Now is the time for our political and social leaders to realize the slow pace of social and political harmony in Pakistan. If the economic and political situation continues to deteriorate in this way, Pakistan may face a very difficult internal situation which will severely affect its ability to withstand external pressures and external enemies will make all-out efforts to cash such a precarious situation to their favour. The secure future of Pakistan is linked to the internal economic security of the people and political and social harmony in the country. The sooner we realize that, the better it will be for the future of the country.

The writer is an expert on International Law.

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