Home and way

While Pak­istan washed its dirty linen in Davos, In­dia stayed home to pro­mote the vi­brancy of the Gu­jarat state and build bridges of con­struc­tive co­op­er­a­tion with many im­por­tant world states.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

With the ad­vent of the New Year, as usual, the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum hit the head­lines. It is a non-profit foun­da­tion lo­cated at Davos in Switzer­land and its mis­sion is cited as "com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the state of the world by en­gag­ing busi­ness, po­lit­i­cal, aca­demic, and other lead­ers of so­ci­ety to shape global, re­gional, and in­dus­try agen­das.”

The Fo­rum holds its an­nual meet­ing at the end of Jan­uary that brings to­gether some 2,500 top busi­ness lead­ers, in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, econ­o­mists and jour­nal­ists for up to four days to dis­cuss the most press­ing is­sues fac­ing the world.

Although it is not an assem­bly of heads of state or gov­ern­ment, yet many at­tend. There is no ques­tion that the oc­ca­sion af­fords a rare op­por­tu­nity for in­ter­act­ing with a large num­ber of busi­ness­men and at­tract­ing for­eign in­vest­ment.

But Pak­istan’s most prom­i­nent spokesman, Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif was ig­nored at the re­cent World Eco­nomic Fo­rum. He was re­port­edly not in­vited to speak at the for­mal four-day meet­ing due to the Panama leaks scan­dal at home that spells big trou­ble for him. In­stead, the man to steal Nawaz Sharif’s thun­der was the for­mer army chief Gen­eral ( r) Ra­heel Sharif.

Ikram Sehgal, a de­fence an­a­lyst and an ex-army of­fi­cer, who is a foun­da­tion mem­ber of WEF said that the for­mer army chief who spoke at three for­mal ses­sions dur­ing the an­nual WEF meet­ing, “pre­sented Pak­istan’s case force­fully, that would help to project a pos­i­tive im­age of our coun­try.” Ra­heel Sharif pre­sented an au­then­tic and con­vinc­ing nar­ra­tive, gut­ting anti-Pak­istan and anti-army pro­pa­ganda, mis­chie­vously preva­lent at home and abroad.

Nawaz Sharif was in­vited by Sehgal to speak at an­other side­line event. But he de­clined the in­vite. Mean­while though, Nawaz Sharif’s IT min­is­ter of state, Anusha Rahman, in­vited her­self as a speaker to a din­ner co-hosted by Sehgal.

How­ever, “the lady came, spoke, gath­ered her hand­bag, abruptly stood up in a huff, and left just when Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif started to speak. Her grace­less con­duct was un­be­com­ing of a min­is­ter,” wrote colum­nist An­jum Niaz in an ar­ti­cle in the Ex­press Tri­bune. She quoted Sehgal, say­ing that the lady “started prop­a­gat­ing to the of­fi­cial Pak­istan del­e­ga­tion in the Congress Cen­tre that the event was only meant to project the Pak­istan Army and not Nawaz Sharif’s gov­ern­ment,” which Sehgal as­serted was “not true.”

Thus, what­ever op­por­tu­nity Pak­istan had of pro­ject­ing it­self as an in­vest­ment savvy coun­try, was lost in wash­ing dirty linen in the pub­lic.

In con­trast to vis­it­ing Davos and get­ting lost in the crowd, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi hit on a more fruit­ful plan to sell In­dia to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. He or­ga­nized “Vi­brant Gu­jarat.”

Al­most side by side with the WEF con­fer­ence, In­dia held the “Vi­brant Gu­jarat Global Sum­mit”, from the 10th to 13th of Jan­uary 2017 at Ma­hatma Mandir, Gandhinagar, in Gu­jarat state, fo­cus­ing on “Sus­tain­able Eco­nomic and

So­cial De­vel­op­ment.”

The gath­er­ing was more rep­re­sen­ta­tive and high-pow­ered be­cause par­tic­i­pants in­cluded heads of state and gov­ern­ment, min­is­ters, lead­ers from the cor­po­rate world, se­nior pol­i­cy­mak­ers as well as heads of in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions and academia from around the world to fur­ther the cause of de­vel­op­ment and to pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion.

The ear­lier sum­mit was at­tended by 20 coun­tries. This time, 12 na­tions were part­ner coun­tries for the event — USA, UK, Aus­tralia, Canada, Den­mark, France, Ja­pan, the Nether­lands, Poland, Sin­ga­pore, Swe­den and the UAE. The events pro­vided an oop­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with key pol­i­cy­mak­ers, in­dus­try lead­ers, global thought lead­ers, reg­u­la­tors and renowned aca­demi­cians from all over the world. It was also an oc­ca­sion to wit­ness co­her­ent de­lib­er­a­tions be­tween sec­tor ex­perts and global lu­mi­nar­ies in an ar­ray of knowl­edge sem­i­nars dur­ing the sum­mit to com­pre­hend evolv­ing global sec­toral trends. It pro­vided a plat­form for SMEs to con­nect glob­ally with po­ten­tial part­ners to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties of col­lab­o­ra­tion and part­ner­ship in ad­di­tion to net­work­ing with var­i­ous fo­rums to fos­ter in­ter­ac­tion be­tween stake­hold­ers through B2B and B2G meet­ings.

An ex­hi­bi­tion spread over 1,25,000 sq.me­tres was also or­ga­nized. It of­fered ex­clu­sive demo ses­sions show­cas­ing the lat­est trends and tech­nol­ogy, prod­ucts and ser­vices across var­i­ous sec­tors. In ad­di­tion, there were sem­i­nars on “In­no­va­tion, Star­tups & En­trepreneur­ship, Make in Gu­jarat – En­gi­neer­ing, Heavy En­gi­neer­ing & Au­to­mo­tive – Op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Era of Tech­no­log­i­cal Trans­for­ma­tion, Ease of Do­ing Busi­ness – Reg­u­la­tors as Fa­cil­i­ta­tors, Health for In­clu­sive De­vel­op­ment, Smart Vil­lages: Em­pow­er­ing Ru­ral In­dia, Genes, Gene Edit­ing And The New Biotech­nol­ogy, Smart and Liv­able Ci­ties: Op­por­tu­ni­ties and Chal­lenges En­hanc­ing Agri­cul­tural Growth through Food Pro­cess­ing; GST: The Game Changer for In­dian Econ­omy, etc.

Be­sides, there were coun­try sem­i­nars on France, United Arab Emi­rates, United States of Amer­ica, U.K., the Nether­lands, Aus­tralia, Swe­den, Poland, Canada, Saudi Ara­bia, Ja­pan, Rwanda, Por­tu­gal, Den­mark, France, Rus­sia, Is­rael and Africa, as well as the In­dian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Ma­ha­rash­tra, As­sam and Jhark­hand.

Among other things, the global event pro­vided In­dia the op­por­tu­nity to smear Pak­istan be­fore for­eign heads of state and gov­ern­ment. The French for­eign min­is­ter, Jean-Marc Ayrault, for ex­am­ple, was quoted as say­ing; "We par­tic­u­larly want to see de­ci­sive ac­tion taken, in keep­ing with in­ter­na­tional law, against ter­ror­ist groups tar­get­ing In­dia, par­tic­u­larly the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jaish-e-Mo­ham­mad and the Hizbul-Mu­jahideen."

Ob­vi­ously, the event was more pro­duc­tive and im­pact­ful for In­dia, which may be why the In­dian prime min­is­ter did not visit the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum.

There can be no ques­tion that events like Vi­brant Gu­jarat are more ef­fec­tive than WEF for the host coun­try to in­tro­duce its prod­ucts and project its in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to for­eign heads of gov­ern­ment and busi­ness­men, be­cause here there is no distraction. The at­ten­tion of the par­tic­i­pants is fo­cused on one sub­ject. The WEF, by con­trast, deals with a num­ber of other top­ics and its at­ten­dees com­prise peo­ple of di­verse call­ings.

Vi­brant Gu­jarat also poses the ques­tion for Pak­istan’s pol­i­cy­mak­ers as to why they can’t ap­ply their minds to plan some­thing on sim­i­lar lines. In­dia thinks con­struc­tively and comes out with peo­ple-friendly poli­cies in­clud­ing the re­cent de­mon­e­ti­za­tion and GST; why can’t Pak­istan? Is it be­cause In­dia does not waste its time on coun­ter­pro­duc­tive pur­suits, like pa­tron­iz­ing any pro­to­type of Hafiz Say­eed?

Pak­istan’s non-per­for­mance at WEF was there­fore not so much an op­por­tu­nity missed, as the ev­i­dence of sheer lack of vi­sion of its pol­i­cy­mak­ers. What it needs most is to wake up and put its act to­gether.

The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer edi­tor of Southasia.

Pak­istan’s non-per­for­mance at WEF was not so much an op­por­tu­nity missed, as ev­i­dence of a sheer lack of vi­sion of its pol­i­cy­mak­ers.

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