(A verse from the famous book of famous politician & writer Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto)
Since the end of the Second World War, a new political situation has developed which, perhaps because it is so evident, is not always seen in its correct perspective and its implications sufficiently understood. Up to now it could be said that the Great Powers are:
- The United States of America
- The People’s Republic of China
- The United Kingdom
- The Soviet Union
The traditional method of conducting foreign affairs in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries was by means of regional alliances formed to maintain a balance of power among the grouping of the Great Powers with the assistance of the smaller nations. Peace was preserved by maintaining this very delicate balance, and peace was disturbed only when the balance, at any given time, tilted in favor of one group or the other. In those days, the smaller nations could influence the policy and the alignment of Great Powers by indulging in various political permutations and combinations.
All this has changed today with the emergence of Global Powers which, in addition to having all the attributes of Great Powers in the classical sense, are at the same time much more powerful and play a larger role in determining the destinies of people all over the world. The emergence of these Powers in the last twenty years has changed the whole concept of conducting affairs of state. The task of smaller nations, in which category all the developing nations fall, in determining their relationship with Global Powers and in furthering their national interests has become more complex and difficult. The small nation which does not understand the new rules of diplomacy is doomed to frustration, a sense of helplessness, isolation and, perhaps, eventual extinction. As a developing nation, Pakistan must understand how to conduct its affairs in this new situation.
What is a Great Power today and what was a Great Power only a few decades ago is a distinction worth examining. In the imperial age the area of influence and control of a Great Power was regional rather than global. Alexander the Great sought to conquer the world, but his world was a small one.
The Roman legions swept across Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, but there was more to the world than the lands where the mandate of Rome prevailed. Charlemagne held sway over Europe, but the political Europe of his day did not extend to very Far-East. Ghengiz Khan's hordes galloped across Asia and parts of Europe, but their conquests were of no lasting consequence to the world at large. Napoleon dreamt of a world order that met its doom in the ashes of Moscow. Hitler was moved by a similar ambition, but he too was driven back from the gates of Moscow.
From Alexander to Hitler, many a conqueror set out to subjugate the world but failed. Enormous territories in more than one continent did come under the yoke of one imperial Power or another, but not for long. The sun did not set on the vast British Empire, but even at the height of their power the British had to contend with the ambitions of other imperial Powers— notably, those of Spain, France, and Germany—so that the world neither fell under the hegemony of any one imperial Power, nor was divided by a pact between two Super-Powers. At the end of the Second World War, when the Axis Powers were shattered, the Allied armies had the world at their command; but, even before hostilities had ended, the conflict of interests between Allied Powers and Soviet Russia became apparent. The authority of the old imperialist Powers like Britain, France, and the Netherlands had diminished to such an extent that they were soon forced to relinquish their overseas empires. Into this void stepped the only two Powers which had emerged strong and victorious out of the Second World War—the United States and the Soviet Union. Inexorably filling the political vacuum, they pushed forward their areas of influence both in the east and in the west. In the west, they reached and confronted each other in Berlin and central Europe. In the east, the Soviets extended their influence to the Pacific; while the United States moved into Japan and the Philippines, and temporarily bolstered up the dying French Empire in south-east Asia. Since, traditionally, the United States had not been an imperialist Power in the sense of physically occupying foreign territories— except for the Philippines and some dependencies in the Caribbean—and since the Soviet Union, by reason of its doctrine of Marxism, also could not justify physical possession of foreign territory, a new type of struggle emerged. This was the beginning of neo-colonialism. It no longer became necessary to control the destinies of smaller countries by any jurisdiction over their territories.
The main purpose of imperialism was to exploit the resources of the colonies. Vast territories were divided and distributed among the imperial Powers, which then drained the resources of the subject peoples. With the end of imperialism in its classical form, only the system of exploitation underwent a transformation. As the colonial Powers withdrew from their colonies, the policy of divide and rule became obsolete and was replaced by that of unite and rule to meet the challenge of new times, although to achieve the same objective. The changed conditions necessitated a change in the method. In the past the colonies were exploited separately by each imperial Power. Now that these
Powers have vacated their possessions; it has become necessary for them to merge the resources of the former colonies into groupings for better collective exploitation. As the position of the exploiters has changed, so also it has become necessary to change that of the exploited. Previously the imperial Powers went separately about their missions of exploitation. Now that they have joined together for their common advantage, it becomes equally necessary for them that their former colonies should pool their resources to facilitate exploitation. The new situation calls for corresponding adjustments both in the former colonies and in the former colonizing countries to make market conditions more suitable for exploitation. Larger markets generate greater exports and imports on terms favorable to the advanced nations of the West. They encourage increased consumption of goods and a more systematic exploitation of resources. They facilitate the manipulation of prices internationally. There are many advantages, most of them accruing to the former colonial Powers. The security interests of the free world are better served, but economic exploitation remains the principal concern. This is the inevitable adjustment in the transition from colonialism to neo-colonialism, which is why our independence remains a myth.