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Foreign Aid: A Geopolitical Foreign Policy Tool

  • Nasir Khan
  • Oct, 2018
  • 1035
  • National

Foreign policy is actually a country’s behaviour with regard to other states in the international arena, driven by its need to achieve its goals

The first and most successful foreign aid initiative was the European Recovery Program (ERP), popularly known as the Marshall Plan. This program was about rebuilding Europe in the aftermath of World War II. World War II had completely destroyed the European economy and infrastructure, and a summer drought and exceptionally frigid winter in 1946-47 killed livestock and ruined crop production. The United States (US) leadership feared that with the destruction of the European economy and the growing misery of the European people, communism would gain a stronghold. The Marshall Plan proved to be very good for America's economy, benefiting business, manufacturing, and agricultural interests by increasing US exports and providing jobs to US workers. Over the years, foreign aid has become an indispensable tool of US foreign policy.

Pakistan has been facing such challenges from last many decades. Foreign aid is used to  overcome the socio-economic and security issues in Pakistan. Official governmental rhetoric declares that development and poverty reduction are principal reasons for granting foreign assistance.

The perception about foreign aid in Pakistan is to facilitate economic development, alleviate poverty, and improve human welfare. Aid helps to tackle threats to human security, such as human rights violations, disease, population growth, environmental degradation, peacemaking, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty and extreme inequalities are often causes of social instability and civil unrest, which, in turn, can produce flows of refugees and acts of terrorism. Thus, aid helps build a safer, more peaceful, and more secure Pakistan.

Foreign policy is actually a country's behaviour with regard to other states in the international arena, driven by its need to achieve its goals.  Although the country's goals can be economic or ideological, or to solve international problems, security concerns have always dominated the foreign policy agenda. States have several options they can use to further their policy plan. Chief among these options are the use of foreign aid, diplomacy, cooperation and association agreements, trade, economic sanctions and military force. Aid also allows the donor state access and influence in the domestic and foreign affairs of other states.

US leaders and policymakers view foreign assistance as an essential instrument of US foreign policy which has increasingly been associated with national security policy. As a tool of foreign policy, foreign aid is provided to Pakistan as either a reward for some behaviour or as an inducement to change behavior. The termination of aid, the stick, can also be used to alter Pakistan's behavior. Decisions on how, where, and when to allocate foreign aid is made by political leaders in the donor country. They base these decisions on the government's perceived national interests, broadly defined.

Foreign aid can also be used to complement military intervention. It is a tool used to supplement the use of military force to ensure that foreign policy goals are met and, once met, secured. It is interesting to understand that why and under what circumstances the leaders of one state would provide valuable resources to another state. The answer is simple; foreign aid is often provided for donor's interests rather than developmental or humanitarian reasons.

Furthermore, it is used predominantly to promote geostrategic interests, for the right to build and maintain foreign bases, to strengthen alliances, or to keep allied regimes in power. It is also used to maintain friendly relations with foreign governments. When pursuing foreign policy, including foreign aid policy, states can choose between bilateral or multilateral actions. Bilateral aid is resources that flow directly from one country to another. Bilateral aid can be delivered through the public sector, NGOs, or public-private partnerships with the recipient country. Those who advocate the use of foreign aid as a geopolitical policy tool prefer bilateral foreign aid because of the strategic objectives to be gained. With bilateral aid, the donor retains control over the funds and determines who will be favoured with aid and under what conditions. Most foreign aid is overseen, and frequently managed, by the donor.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that aid has often presented more challenges than opportunities to recipients. Once Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan said, “A country that relies on aid? Death is better than that. It stops you from achieving your potential, just as colonialism did.”

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