COAS Qamar Bajwa, Public Diplomacy, Military Diplomacy, and the Permanent State

By Shazia Anwer Cheema

There is an unending debate in Pakistan about who runs the foreign affairs of Pakistan and who are the real players in the arena of diplomacy.

In one of my recent television shows, one of the participants strongly claimed that politicians did not rule the foreign policy but someone else, and this someone everybody knows refers to the Pakistan Army which had been an inevitable part of power-sharing since the 50s. For me, this is a nonsense debate because foreign policy in every successful country is run by the “Permanent State” while civil governments keep changing. Name any country from the United States of America to Russia or the United Kingdom, it is simple to understand who runs foreign policy.

What we have seen during 42 month’s long foreign policy disaster during the PTI government, reinforces my belief that Foreign Policy must be in the hands of a Permanent State. I had been writing during the last three years that PTI was and still following the path of ruining Pakistan’s foreign relations. Look at the “cipher fiasco” and then you do not need further explanation of how a political government could be disastrous for international relations if politicians and civil bureaucrats are 100 percent independent to run the Foreign Office.

In the darkest era of Pakistan’s diplomacy under the PTI government, the proactive role of COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa is commendable for spending his energies on firefighting and mitigating what Imran Khan’s team had been doing


In one of my articles published in March 2022 when PTI was in full power titled “Diplomatic Cadre Make Bridges—Politicians Break Bridges” I explained how PTI had been cruel about the foreign affairs of Pakistan. Almost every important person around former Prime Minister Imran Khan had been busy ruining our relations with the European Union (a reference to the Twitter war of former federal minister Shirin Mazari against French President), China (reference volley of bullets Murad Saeed and Sheik Rasheed used to fire against China to defame CPEC project), Qatar (reference allegation of corruption against Shahid Khakan Abbasi for buying gas), Saudi Arabia (a reference to a statement of former foreign Minister against Saudi Araba and then he tried to justify his statement), Turkey (a reference to embarrassing Malaysia (by not attending a conference that was proposed by Imran Khan himself), Turkey (by beating employees of Turkish firm working in solid waste management in Punjab and then withdrawing contract with the firm and sending employees to police stations),  and the United States (a reference to cipher fiasco). It was a real nightmare for people like me who follow Military and Public Diplomacy. It was the worst era Pakistani diplomats had gone through whose training is bridging relations.

COAS continued to enhance Military Diplomacy with everybody that matters in global affairs

In the darkest era of Pakistan’s diplomacy under the PTI government, the proactive role of the Pakistan Army, and particularly COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa is commendable for spending his energies on firefighting and mitigating what Imran Khan’s team had been doing.

Time has passed by leaving scars on the soul of our foreign relations with friendly countries and it would take decades for healing

Meeting diplomats in his office while wearing a big smile and listening to complaints from diplomats could only be done by a person who has been serving the country as a fatherly figure but not only as chief of the Army.


Shuttling from one country to another for firefighting, COAS Gen Bajwa tried his best to tell the world that all Pakistanis are not as bad-mouthed as the PTI team. Anyhow the time has passed by leaving scars on the soul of our foreign relations with friendly countries and it would take decades for healing.

For the sake of mitigating disasters at civilian diplomacy, COAS continued in his last six years’ tenure to enhance Military Diplomacy with everybody that matters in global affairs. The leadership, under a well-envisaged successful military diplomacy, provided a solid ground for making Pakistan’s dream of economic development, a peaceful and prosperous future a reality. Specifically, it focused on improving the socioeconomic and military ties with Saudi Arabia, UAE, and China.

Military on its part played a lead role in countering the enemy’s bids for isolating Pakistan and pushing it into economic chaos. Saudi Arabia and UAE stepped ahead and helped Pakistan out by releasing billions of dollars worth of aid plus oil. Likewise, LNG was acquired from Qatar at a minimum cost. As a matter of fact, military diplomacy played a major role in the economic packages offered by Saudi Arabia and UAE.

The Army Chief amidst the economic crisis approached the Saudi-UAE leadership and the American under-secretary for foreign affairs; he asked for their role in materializing an agreement with IMF. In fact, it is his special efforts that paved the way to a deal with the IMF.

Each and every wicked attempt aimed at sabotaging CPEC or other development projects in Balochistan was made to fail. Special Security Division was raised for CPEC security, which implemented multiple security plans after taking into cognizance the pros and cons of the possible threats to the project. CPEC and other projects’ security is being ensured even at the cost of priceless sacrifices. No project has been rendered short of progress, despite the existence of multiple challenges and threats.

The enemy has always targeted peace. Pakistan instead has ever extended a hand for friendship. Kartarpur Corridor validates this fact. This was solely the initiative of the Pakistan Army. FWO, in just a short period of eight months, completed the corridor project and virtually made the impossible possible.

It is by dint of this initiative that the world has come to know that in Pakistan the minority communities do enjoy full and total religious freedom, and equal opportunities to grow. This recognition was made none else but by the UN Secretary-General himself, who praised Pakistan’s commendable initiative, during his landmark Kirtarpur visit.

COAS Gen Bajwa did not clean up the mess-up of the PTI government but rather also swept away dirt left by previous governments and even by the courts. The mishandling of the Karkey and Riko dek projects had irreparably cost Pakistan billions of dollars’ penalties. This could have shaken the very foundation of Pakistan’s economy. But those who have the knowledge of the latest, do rightly recognize that it is only the Pakistan Army’s restless efforts, under Gen Bajwa’s leadership, that has enabled the country to get out of that crisis.

Riko dek’s was seemingly an insurmountable task. Pakistan was saved from financial disaster with the ceaseless efforts made by Pakistan Army’s proactive team led by a Major General. The task was exclusively assigned by Gen Bajwa himself.

It is important to note that the $11 billion penalty in the Riko dek case was impossible to pay, particularly at a time when confiscation of Pakistan’s properties across the world had already started. Now not only the issue has satisfactorily been resolved, but a 50-50 partnership agreement has also been reached, which also guarantees dividends in Pakistan’s favor, by every means. Additionally, this is likely to create 8 thousand direct and 12000 indirect employment opportunities. As compared to the once most disputed deal, Pakistan will now annually get $255 million in added revenue; while overall it will get $65 billion from the 35-year production interest. Balochistan would specifically get a 41 percent share, which is meant to guarantee a sure development in the province. Moreover, Rs 108 billion will be spent on welfare projects for the local population, whereas the new Riko dek deal will additionally benefit the CPEC project as well.

Pakistan 2008 entered into an agreement with Lakra Generation Company in order to resolve the power outages crisis. Kirkey failed to pay the outstanding amount to Lakra as per requirement, and therefore it breached the agreement. Consequently, Turkey took the notice of contention to the International Centre for Investment Dispute (ICSID). Pakistan lost its case in 2017 and was asked to pay $1.2 billion as a fine. This issue, too, was resolved by Pakistan Army. Two military officers, who played a pivotal role in the process, were awarded by the government in recognition of their service to Pakistan. The military leadership has indeed played a key and decisive role in resolving these issues and taking Pakistan out of such a crisis.

Under the leadership of COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa, Pakistan has actively been participating in several multinational military games and exercises, sending and receiving military officers and soldiers to and from other countries and this practice surely helps Pakistan in the international military relationships. In the book titled “Military Diplomacy and Its Present Functions” written by Dr. Erik Pajtinka of Bel University write that military diplomacy plays a pivotal role in gathering and analyzing information on the armed forces and the security situation in the receiving state; promoting cooperation, communication and mutual relations between the armed forces of the sending and the receiving state’ organization of working visits of representatives of the defence authorities and of peaceful stay of the military units of the sending state in the receiving state; supporting business contracts with arms and military equipment between the sending and the receiving state, and representation of the sending state and its armed forces at official ceremonies and other events in the receiving state.

Colonel Amy R. Ebitz who is Federal Executive Fellow at Brookings is also of the view that “military diplomacy,” is also referred to as “defense diplomacy,” “soft power,” “military public diplomacy,” and “strategic communication,” allows the military to have a direct impact on foreign policy through other means. He says that military diplomacy works as relationships between countries to build a foundation on which further connections between nations are developed.

Note: Writer Shazia Anwer Cheema is an author, columnist, and foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media. She is a doctoral student and researcher in semiotics and philosophy of communication at Charles University in Prague. She can be reached at her: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh Email: shaziaanwer@yahoo.com


The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

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