Pakistan Day Parade and the Failure of Diplomatic Isolation
Every year on Republic Day, the idea behind the creation of Pakistan is celebrated as the moment that once gave hope to the oppressed Muslim masses of India. It marks the nation’s spiritual birth before the physical attainment of a geographical nation-state in August 1947, and the investiture of honours and awards given to citizens year after year is a commemoration of Pakistan’s modern day nationalism.
For most Pakistanis, the day is synonymous with the Pakistan Day military parade held in the capital, Islamabad, a hugely symbolic ritual that most have seen since childhood, and one that instils nostalgic notions of security, stability and patriotism.
In a sense, the parade is a gauge of sorts, granting a degree of national normatively to the security environment, while its absence has often meant political instability and chaos. In the recent past, the parade was called off in 2002 because of a military standoff with India on the eastern border and it remained suspended between the years 2009-2014 due to an ongoing terrorist insurgency in Pakistan’s tribal areas and Swat valley.
The renewal of the iconic parade in 2015 was a nod to an improved national law and order situation and illustrated the confidence of Pakistan’s state institutions as things on the security front gradually went back to normal.
Marching military columns and a show of defence equipment is a theatrical political performance bursting at the seams with ceremonial symbolism and power optics, and an audience of allies at the ceremony is indicative of the state of international support the country enjoys. It is no surprise that the revival of the annual military parade with full gusto has also renewed Pakistan’s expectations towards friends in the region and across the globe. It is in many ways an exercise in diplomacy and in strengthening ties, with the participation of friendly countries giving political and military credence to the event as well as appraisal to the state’s foreign policy outlook.
The avid participation of military contingents and officials from Malaysia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, China, Sri Lanka and Turkey in this year’s military parade go further than any political statements ever could, to establish the fact that any attempts to politically isolate Pakistan in the region have categorically failed.
During the last two years, this friendly diplomacy has very much been at play during the parade with Pakistan’s friends in the Middle East emerging in great prominence. In the military parade of 2017, the presence of military contingents from China, Saudi Arabia and the traditional Ottoman Military Band (Mehter) from Turkey was a roaring show of support for Pakistan. In 2018, when Pakistani troops took to the parade venue , they were joined by military contingents from the UAE, Jordan and Turkey.
The participation of these military units particularly from Pakistan’s friends in the Middle East and Arabian Gulf manifest a long-standing inter-military camaraderie among different sides. Pakistan’s military has been instrumental in the training process of some of the Middle East militaries and the regular arrival of military cadets from the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries to Pakistani military institutions speaks volumes of their strong strategic ties.
There is no doubt that this Republic Day parade takes on a more special, symbolic meaning coming hot on the heels of a confrontation between India and Pakistan last month that resulted in the downing of an Indian fighter jet and Pakistan’s capture of the aircraft’s pilot. Against this backdrop, with Pakistan having just returned from the brink of all-out war, it is of even greater significance to showcase military dominance achieved on the ground and in the skies with a strong show of political solidarity.
The avid participation of military contingents and officials from Malaysia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, China, Sri Lanka and Turkey in this year’s military parade go further than any political statements ever could, to establish the fact that any attempts to politically isolate Pakistan in the region have categorically failed and that our age-old partnerships have endured the test of time, coming out stronger now than ever before.