Walk the Talk

Will the De­vel­op­ing-8 con­form to the char­ter and vi­sion agreed upon in Is­lam­abad, or will the Sum­mit be­come an­other event in his­tory?

Southasia - - Summit - By Muham­mad Omar Iftikhar

The eighth meet­ing of the D8 Sum­mit re­cently held in Is­lam­abad was a his­toric con­ver­gence of world lead­ers. Pre­vi­ously, D8 Sum­mits have pro­vided room for fu­ture plan­ning and devel­op­ment projects but each time, the en­thu­si­asm faded soon af­ter the event con­cluded. It is hoped the D8 Char­ter and a Global Vi­sion for­mu­lated in Is­lam­abad will serve as a guide­post for all mem­ber coun­tries. The key ob­jec­tives of the Char­ter in­clude so­cio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment, poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and the strength­en­ing of eco­nomic, so­cial and sci­en­tific ties to as­sist pri­vate sec­tor growth.

The par­tic­i­pat­ing lead­ers also agreed upon the 35-point Is­lam­abad Dec­la­ra­tion, which reaf­firms the ob­jec­tives of the D8. It as­serts the com­mit­ment to peace, democ­racy, progress, di­a­logue, tol­er­ance and mod­er­a­tion as core val­ues for achiev­ing eco­nomic pros­per­ity. In ad­di­tion, mem­ber coun­tries also fi­nal­ized the Global Vi­sion doc­u­ment (2012-2030) which is aimed at en­cour­ag­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween mem­ber states.

Pak­istan pre­sented its busi­ness prospects at the D8 trade ex­hi­bi­tion, which pre­ceded the Sum­mit. The ex­hi­bi­tion drew more than 40 par­tic­i­pants from Pak­istan and 70 more from mem­ber coun­tries to fa­cil­i­tate and ex­pand av­enues of trade among mem­ber coun­tries. The Pak­istani ex­hibitors fo­cused on tex­tiles, en­gi­neer­ing goods and Ha­lal food. In ad­di­tion, some 120 busi­ness meet­ings held par­al­lel to the ex­hi­bi­tion, en­cour­aged en­trepreneurs, busi­nessper­sons and traders from all mem­ber coun­tries to fa­cil­i­tate agree­ments and dis­cuss in­vest­ment pro­pos­als on a level plat­form.

Hosted by Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari, the Sum­mit was at­tended by the Ad­vi­sor to the Bangladeshi Prime Min­is­ter, Syed Ali Gowher Rizvi, Egyp­tian Vice Pres­i­dent, Mah­moud Mekki, In­done­sian Pres­i­dent, Susilo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent, Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, Nige­rian Pres­i­dent, Good­luck Jonathan, Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and Malaysian Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, Muhyid­din Yassin.

Among the lead­ers who did not at­tend were Bangladesh Prime Min­is­ter, Sheikh Hasina Wa­jid and Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent, Mo­hamed Mursi. The lat­ter re­mained at home to over­see the peace process be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas af­ter Egypt took charge as me­di­a­tor. How­ever, the ab­sence of Prime Min­is­ter Hasina Wa­jid was not quite wel­come. The Bangladeshi po­lit­i­cal mind­set still seems to be stuck in the post-1971 era. Prime Min­is­ter Hasina can­celled her visit three days af­ter Pak­istani For­eign Min­is­ter, Hina Rab­bani Khar vis­ited Bangladesh ear­lier in Novem­ber and in­vited the PM to the sum­mit. This is ob­vi­ous from the fact that the Pre­mier handed over to the Pak­istani FM a list of de­mands, such as bring­ing to jus­tice former mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal fig­ures who were al­legedly in­volved in mil­i­tary ac­tion against East Pak­istan.

It seems Bangladesh con­tin­ues to live in the shad­ows of the events lead­ing to the dis­mem­ber­ment of Pak­istan. Had she made the trip, this would have been Prime Min­is­ter Hasina’s first of­fi­cial visit to Is­lam­abad af­ter she as­sumed of­fice in 2008. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, the Bangladeshi pol­icy ad­vi­sor sug­gested that it would be un­wise for the Prime Min­is­ter to visit Pak­istan un­less Is­lam­abad of­fered a for­mal apol­ogy, though Pak­istan has al­ready done so on many oc­ca­sions.

While ad­dress­ing the in­au­gu­ral ses­sion of the Sum­mit, Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari pro­posed the es­tab­lish­ment of trade and devel­op­ment banks in D-8. He also stressed the need to in­crease barter trade and cur­rency swap agree­ments. Zar­dari un­der­lined the need for bet­ter co­op­er­a­tion and called on the mem­ber states to work for find­ing so­lu­tions to en­cour­age free flow of goods, hu­man cap­i­tal and fi­nances.

A defin­ing moment at the D8 Sum­mit was the meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari and Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad. The lat­ter promised to com­plete the multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Iran-Pak­istan gas pipe­line on time.

Although the D8 mem­ber coun­tries sel­dom raise their voice for change, they crit­i­cized the sta­tus quo and called for a new world or­der that ac­com­mo­dates ba­sic hu­man rights. Pres­i­dent Ah­madine­jad said the era of cap­i­tal­ism was near­ing its end and stressed on the for­ma­tion of a new sys­tem to re­shape the world. De­spite the law and se­cu­rity is­sues in Pak­istan and the demon­strated success of the cur­rent government in host­ing an in­ter­na­tional sum­mit, the D-8 Sum­mit took sev­eral steps in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion. Whether th­ese will be fol­lowed through in the near fu­ture is an en­tirely sep­a­rate de­bate.

D8 lead­ers also dis­cussed re­gional is­sues and Afghanistan fea­tured promi­nently. The coun­try presents a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge, specif­i­cally to Pak­istan and Iran. The with­drawal of Nato troops from Afghanistan in 2014 raises se­ri­ous con­cerns for the fu­ture of the war-torn state and its neigh­bors.

While mat­ters of re­gional sta­bil­ity and im­prov­ing eco­nomic re­la­tions in the Mus­lim world were a con­tentious sub­ject dur­ing the Sum­mit, the Is­rael-Gaza con­flict over­shad­owed the dis­cus­sions. The Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict has al­ways chal­lenged the com­pe­tency of the Mus­lim world, es­pe­cially in curb­ing Is­raeli ag­gres­sion. The Syr­ian con­flict was also dis­cussed. Us­ing the Sum­mit as a plat­form for change, mem­ber states could have de­vised a counter-strat­egy to pro­vide the Pales­tini­ans some re­lief from the op­pres­sion and could have pro­posed mea­sures to end the Syr­ian con­flict.

The global fi­nan­cial en­vi­ron­ment and its im­pact on D8 mem­bers was also dis­cussed. Mem­ber coun­tries pledged to reach a trade tar­get of $500 bil­lion by 2018. None of the par­tic­i­pants high­lighted the cur­rent trade vol­ume to iden­tify the gap that needs to be filled. A lack of di­rec­tion amongst the D8 coun­tries has raised anx­i­ety over the vi­sion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. With two head-of-states ab­sent from the Sum­mit and the at­tend­ing lead­ers only pledg­ing for a bet­ter fu­ture, it seems that the or­ga­ni­za­tion will con­vene and con­clude bi­en­ni­ally with­out ad­dress­ing any is­sues at hand.

As is cus­tom­ary, the sum­mit ended with no ac­tion plan in sight and with no cred­i­ble in­ten­tion of walking the talk.

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