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?
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.