Read the full article in the Institute of East Asian Studies’ Asian Survey.
Pakistan in 2019
Navigating Major Power Relations amid Economic Crisis
This article was originally published in the Institute of East Asian Studies' Asian Survey in February 2020.
Relatively prudent foreign policy maneuvers stole the headlines in 2019, overshadowing Pakistan’s downward economic spiral and political decay. The Imran Khan government made the most of extra-regional strategic opportunities with the U.S. and China while weathering a collapsing bilateral relationship with India. Officials struggled to arrest a mounting economic crisis. The state further accelerated the long-term corrosion of Pakistan’s political institutions with threats to federalism, suppression of opposition elements, and greater space for the military at the expense of civilians.
In 2019, Pakistan’s relationships of strategic consequence were shuffled, its economy struggled, and its political institutions witnessed deeper erosion. The government did its best when dealt a difficult strategic relations hand, with modest improvements in relations with the US, a modicum of discord with China, and a relationship with India that plunged into conflict. By contrast, false optimism and mismanagement may have exacerbated a spiraling economic crisis, slowing recovery even after another IMF bailout. Disruptive political developments, meanwhile, continued to erode Pakistan’s political institutions and governance structures, further tilting the balance between center and periphery, state and individual, and military and civilian.