Domestic Politics and Structural Constraints

Pakistan and its South Asian Neighbors 1

Authored by: Ryan Brasher

Routledge Handbook of the International Relations of South Asia

Print publication date:  October  2022
Online publication date:  October  2022

Print ISBN: 9781032159881
eBook ISBN: 9781003246626
Adobe ISBN:


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Pakistan's bilateral relations with its South Asian neighbors are not simply guided by rational decision-making in response to structural conditions, but also domestic political considerations. The strategic culture as well as material interests of the military, among other actors, push Pakistan into foreign policy behavior that at times hinder its quest for security against the perceived existential threat from India. Pakistan has had difficulty building a constructive relationship with Bangladesh, because of its inability to resolve the latter's grievances from the 1971 war. In Afghanistan, Pakistan's insistence on working through Islamist actors has had negative repercussions for its own domestic stability. It has also been unable to sustain a stable, if not peaceful, relationship with India, despite the potential benefits. Pakistan's relations with Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives are cordial, but limited by Indian preponderance and its own disinterest. The chapter also discusses the contrasting foreign policy approaches of Pakistan's civilian and military governments, with the latter generally more pugilistic, but also with greater autonomy to pursue cooperation when it is so inclined.

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