Countering Militancy in Pakistan: Domestic, Regional and International Dimensions Conference August 2009

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Countering Militancy in Pakistan: Domestic, Regional and International Dimensions Conference - August 2009

Pakistan: The European Perspective at the Turn of the 21st Century

Speaker - Dr Jakub Zajczkowski
Institution - University of Warsaw, Poland

The principal aim of the presentation is to analyse the relations between European countries and Pakistan. The author presents the background, as well as cultural, political and international aspects of these relations. But the main aim of the presentation is to analyse European perceptions of Pakistan and its evolution. Research questions are:

  • What are European perceptions of Pakistan and South Asia and how have they evolved?

  • What is the difference between European and American perceptions of Pakistan?

  • What are the implications of European perceptions of policy towards South Asia and of research on South Asia?

The assumptions stress that European perceptions of Pakistan are connected with the European model of security and its view on international relations. To properly analyse European perceptions of Pakistan, it is necessary to understand the European vision of international order.  

The hypothesis of the presentation is that there is a gap between European and American perceptions of Pakistan, which is the result of different attitudes and approaches towards international order, as well as issues such as war, the balance of power, and the use of force. The European perspective put stress more on soft power elements.

The U.S. analyses Pakistan mainly in the context of the war on terror, Afghanistan, and the potential  threat of nuclear war in South Asia. The complexity of the security problem in Pakistan is the reason why using only one approach limits the possibility of understanding all the underlying factors and circumstances.

Europe places greater stress on identity questions and economic issues. European, especially East European perceptions, also have their limits, however. It is connected not only with the lack of understanding of the social and cultural essence of Pakistan, but also with understanding of Islam, political Islam. Pakistan is viewed by Europe as an incomplete state because its problem of governance and the role of Islam in political and social life. Despite the experiment with democracy in the 1990s and nowadays, Pakistan still faces identity problems.

To understand Pakistan is not only a question of democracy or ideology. In addition to this problem of democracy and ideological bipolarity, Pakistan, as an example of territorial-based Muslim nationalism, has had to contend with regional and ethnic pluralism. 60 years after independence Pakistan still faces the dilemma of establishing a consensus-based political system and egalitarian society. It is a result of a variety of forces that are at work in a predominantly Muslim society. It is especially important because these unresolved tensions in nation-building and the ongoing struggle between diverse traditions not only affects the domestic scene, but also regional security and relations with Europe, the U.S. and India.

Therefore, the perception of Pakistan solely in the light of democracy and the relationship between Islam and democracy - although it does attempt to answer the question of Pakistan’s identity, taking into account social and ethnic issues - overlooks the security issue. The complete rejection of realism and neorealism also ignores the reality of contemporary international relations, where the state, with its unrelenting tendency to maximise its own interests, is still dominant. Pakistan is a good example of a state whose main features are complexity and variety. To understand Pakistan’s foreign and domestic policy, it is essential to take into account not only one element, but also different approaches

Thus, only after a comparison of research conclusions drawn from the use of the realist, liberal and constructivist approach is it possible to form a comprehensive view on the essence and character of Pakistan. That is also the reason why it is necessary to take into account both the US and European approaches to studying Pakistan, despite their considerable differences.

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