Na­tional in­ter­ests

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Khur­shid Hadi

POL­ICY puz­zles are solved solely in the na­tional in­ter­est. So be it! As a first step to re­gain lost dig­nity we need to fol­low a for­eign pol­icy that pro­motes a sus­tained, de­ter­mined friend­ship with China and Iran. The sheer naïveté of this sug­ges­tion will be met with howls of de­ri­sion. How can we ex­pect the rul­ing forces to alien­ate the bas­tion of their as­sets, they that nur­ture their chil­dren? Or for that mat­ter ex­pect the Ira­ni­ans, the for­lorn prom­ise of the late RCD not­with­stand­ing, to over­come their his­toric dis­dain for us in par­tic­u­lar?

Li­aquat Ali Khan's de­ci­sion to visit the US in 1950 seem­ingly snub­bing Josef Stalin's ear­lier in­vi­ta­tion set the di­rec­tion for close ties with the West even whilst giv­ing a ve­neer of non-align­ment. Suf­fice it to say that the US im­per­a­tive to con­tain com­mu­nist ex­pan­sion and our over­rid­ing ap­pre­hen­sion of In­dian ag­gres­sion has de­ter­mined our for­eign pol­icy through­out the post in­de­pen­dence years. Af­ter 68 years what have we learned?

Con­clu­sively, that each coun­try acts in its own self in­ter­est and the big­ger they are the more mus­cle is ex­erted to bend oth­ers to their will.

The law of the jun­gle dressed up in fine in­ten­tions. They then "threaten to bomb you back to the stone-age" (Ar­mitage) or "you are with us or against us" (Bush) or "we will make a hor­ri­ble ex­am­ple of you" (Kissinger).

There is found no ev­i­dence of Chair­man Mao or Ay­a­tol­lah Khome­ini ever mak­ing such threats against us. Nor has any fin­ger been pointed at any Chi­nese or Ira­nian state au­thor­ity link­ing them to the as­sas­si­na­tions of Li­aquat Ali Khan, Zia or Be­nazir Bhutto.

Our past choices have been honed on a ra­pa­cious ap­petite that re­lied on reg­u­lar bailouts from in­ter­na­tional aid and loans. That it suited the West to keep us afloat even as we per­sis­tently vi­o­lated cod­i­cils of IMF treaties, is never re­ally un­der­stood. This na­tional ethos of de­pen­dency has de­volved on our own busi­ness com­mu­nity - rely on the state to bail you out as and when re­quired.

With our na­tional debt at a his­toric high ($50 bil­lion), de­clin­ing ex­ports and our tax-GDP amongst the low­est in the world how long is the col­lec­tive am­ne­sia of our di­lap­i­dated state go­ing to con­tinue? Eco­nomic de­liv­er­ance an il­lu­sion, in­ter­na­tional re­spect a pipe dream.

Mean­while coun­tries that stead­fastly held an in­de­pen­dent course may be eat­ing grass but Ira­ni­ans, Cubans, Venezue­lans and the Chi­nese in­ter­alia walk tall and look for­ward to a gen­uine friends-not-masters re­la­tion­ship with the rest of the world.

De­serv­ing or not, we are pari­ahs in most of the world and specif­i­cally so in the coun­tries we cling to the clos­est. And where is In­dia? In­dia whose in­con­sis­ten­cies and du­plic­i­ties abound, turns up at the top ta­ble as a much ex­alted guest; its power ap­plauded, its cul­ture ven­er­ated, its peo­ple ac­cepted. As far back as 1985, the Fes­ti­val of In­dia was launched with bal­loons and pa­rades and doves re­leased by pres­i­dent Rea­gan and Ra­jiv Gandhi.

This was the first time the US had ear­marked a pe­riod of 18 months (not the usual cal­en­dar year) as trib­ute to a for­eign cul­ture. Bloom­ing­dales ran a per­pet­ual In­dia wing. If Pak­istan has ever had such a trib­ute it was prob­a­bly at a 7 Eleven.

A man­i­fest de­sire for the clos­est friend­ship with both China and Iran does not re­quire aban­don­ing of cur­rent re­la­tions. This is not a zero sum game and in any case what­ever our his­toric use, be it nu­clear mus­cle, geo-strate­gic lo­ca­tion or the mod­est flow of goods and ser­vices, it re­mains con­stant. The world is lin­ing up to take steps for greater com­mer­cial ties with both China and Iran none more so than In­dia; yet there is a win­dow if we seize this mo­ment whilst the US con­ser­va­tives hos­til­ity per­sists -a friend in need.

FPCCI has pro­posed a tar­get of $5bn on trade from the cur­rent $400 mil­lion, hardly am­bi­tious com­pared to the $15bn achieved by In­dia even whilst sanc­tions were in place.

Our pol­icy should be a con­sis­tent and clear state-spon­sored pro­mo­tion of a vig­or­ous re­la­tion­ship. Eco­nomic diplo­macy ini­tia­tives that in­clude MFN sta­tus, skewed tax pref­er­en­tial treat­ment, elim­i­na­tion of re­gres­sive bu­reau­cracy.

Take the na­tion on board on CPEC, clar­ify the cur­rent ob­scu­rity and give it top pri­or­ity in a na­tional eco­nomic plan. Re­visit the IPI pipe­line pro­ject now that bank­ing re­stric­tions are re­moved. Bun­dle this with use of our soft power. In­dia has adopted an In­dia China Tourism Year which we should have done.

The In­dian arts and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try has a phe­nom­e­nal global fol­low­ing and has done much to make In­dia shin­ing. Our own nascent in­dus­try will be equally ef­fec­tive in the pro­mo­tion of Pak­istan.

Lift­ing of sanc­tions is a start and a full menu of ini­tia­tives should be launched for this en­deav­our overcoming all reser­va­tions of the re­cal­ci­trant man­darins who would seek to ob­struct.

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