Islamabad’s indifference towards global issues

Published: April 9, 2012

The writer is a former vice-president of the World Bank and a former caretaker finance minister of Pakistan

It should be a matter of great concern in Pakistan that the country’s leadership remains totally oblivious to the fact that the global economic and political order is being slowly reshaped. Islamabad is too concerned with the domestic economic and political situation to have the time, or the inclination, to raise its sights beyond its borders. If that sight is raised, one would see the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and how the US is viewing Islamabad. It is possibly because the policymakers in the Pakistani capital are so preoccupied with these kinds of concerns that they have ignored the developments that will affect the country in the not-too-distant future.

Pakistan’s policymakers should be concerned that their country has been totally excluded from the deliberations that are currently going on to construct a new — or to reshape the old — global and economic and political order. I find it quite extraordinary, and somewhat disturbing, that the Pakistani media, both the print and electronic versions, gave so little attention to the New Delhi summit of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations. The meeting was held in New Delhi on March 29 when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was meeting with important political leaders, heads of the armed forces, and the chief of the main intelligence agency to fashion a new relationship with the US. That meeting appropriately received full media coverage. But the media did not seem too interested in the summit of the five heads of states of the BRICS nations next door in New Delhi.

Hosted by the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the BRICS summit discussed a number of issues that should also be of immediate concern for Islamabad and Pakistan’s informed citizenry. That apparently is not the case. One reason why Pakistan is treated with such little respect is that it has made very little effort to get involved in global economic and political matters. There is a lesson to be learned from the way Turkey has positioned itself on the global stage. It was not a very long time ago that Ankara was totally ignored by the international community. Now it is represented effectively in a number of different forums.

The New Delhi meeting was the fourth time that the BRICS leaders have met. The first meeting was held in Russia in 2009. This time around they took up a number of matters on which they believe a collective decision would have a greater impact than acting alone. One of the issues taken up, on which no definitive stance was adopted, was about the restructuring of the institutional structure that supports the old global economic order. They want their countries to have a greater say in the way these institutions are managed and make their policies. Both the IMF and the World Bank are important for Pakistan. The country leans on the former during difficult times. It relies on the latter all the time for development assistance. Not only has Islamabad not taken much interest in the way these institutions are likely to evolve to maintain their relevance in a rapidly changing global economy, the country also has extremely weak official representation in these two institutions.

The BRICS nations have expressed some interest in creating a development bank of their own. If established, this new financial institution will draw its capital from the developing world. All the BRICS nations have large external account balances. China now holds the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves. If it decides to create a World Bank type-of-institution, it will have no problem finding capital for it. The institution might not be able to rival the World Bank in terms of access to resources but it could certainly acquire the significance that the Asian Development Bank enjoys. It should be of interest to Pakistan to keep a watch over the working of the process that might eventually lead to the establishment of a BRICS bank. How will such an institution be managed; who will have access to its resources and how will that access be determined; what will be its lending policies; how will it deal with other development institutions? These are some of the questions that will be raised and when the answers are found, they would serve the interests of the founding members and other developing nations. Is there some ministry or government institution in Pakistan that is concerned with such issues? The answer is, probably not.

Do we, in Pakistan, know that James O’Neill, the author of the BRICS idea has now come up with another suggestion? He believes that the world would do well to watch the progress being made by another group of countries he calls the “new eleven”. This group includes Pakistan along with more dynamic, emerging economies such as Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey. These countries have either the demographic size (for instance Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey) or high rates of economic growth (for instance South Korea and Turkey) that will have considerable influence on the working of the global economy. If that idea is picked up, would it also lead to the development of an institutional device or a forum where these countries can actively pursue their interests?

The main conclusion I want to draw from this discussion is that Pakistan’s policymakers are so absorbed in dealing with a rapidly deteriorating domestic situation, that they have not turned their attention towards the way the global system is being reshaped. Islamabad may assign a low priority to what is happening to the economic world some distance away from its borders. This will prove to be costly neglect. We must operate in a system in which we have a voice and a role in developing it. This is not the case at this time. Unless we change our priorities we will be functioning in an environment that will remain hostile towards us, and in which our position will be increasingly uncomfortable.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • kaalchakra
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:57AM

    What a slavish mindset that is still focused on looking at Pakistan from American point of view. Why not look at America from Pakistani point of view? New leaders like Imran Khan and Saeed Hafiz have shown the way and it is time they were given power to put an end to Pakistan’s slavery to the West.

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  • jahandad
    Apr 9, 2012 - 1:22AM

    True leadership with vision and determination ,,,but a true leadership is always patriotic and honest ,,,so whom can be trusted ,,,revolution or real change through democratic process by the non voting sleepy middle and lower middle class,,,,,country is composed of people and people make the nation and nation gives leaders and leaders raise the nation,,,,so the country makes a name and position in world ,unfortunately we lack a lot,,,,hope for best but make law superior to personalities ,,,justice for all and education plus health for all are the only and only and simply only ways out of today’s dumpy situations,,,,

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  • jahandad
    Apr 9, 2012 - 1:44AM

    True leadership with vision and determination ,,,but a true leadership is always patriotic and honest ,,,so whom can be trusted ,,,revolution or real change through democratic process by the non voting sleepy middle and lower middle class,,,,,country is composed of people and people make the nation and nation gives leaders and leaders raise the nation,,,,so the country makes a name and position in world ,unfortunately we lack a lot,,,,hope for best but make law superior to personalities ,,,justice for all and education plus health for all are the only and only and simply only ways out of today’s dumpy situations,,,,Recommend

  • ashok
    Apr 9, 2012 - 2:42AM

    @kalachakra,

    I thought you have Jehadi bones hidden in the closet;

    For Pakistanis Hafiz Saeed has done lot of cheritable job and is a visionary leader; For Indians, Narendra Modi has done lot more fantastic job and has shown leadership qualities for the last 10 years as an elected representative of the state. Neither of them have been found guilty in their respective courts.

    How about Hafiz the visionary leader as the PM of Islamic Republic of Pakistan Army.

    Hafiz Mubaarak to Pakistanis and Modi Mubarak to India. Pakistan and Hafiz perfect together.

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  • Max
    Apr 9, 2012 - 2:45AM

    Amazed by O’Neill’s idea of “New Elevens.” To me these look like odd couples. Yes! the economies of these countries are making progress but so is the population pressure on Indonesia and Pakistan. The pace of growth in Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, or Turkey (the countries that you listed) leaves Pakistan behind by several percentage points. I am not sure what other countries are in the group so cannot make a judgment. Pakistan’s global vision unfortunately is blurred by its myopic version of things read Jihadi mentality). Its motto should be what is in Punjabi: Na Khadain gay na khadain dayan gay (Neither shall we play nor will we let others play).
    Mr. Burki. Apologize if my words are too harsh, but I have hanged up my hopes about its survival as a political entity and as an economic actor on the word stage.

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  • Truthbetold
    Apr 9, 2012 - 4:13AM

    “One reason why Pakistan is treated with such little respect is that it has made very little effort to get involved in global economic and political matters.”

    The author seems to be totally oblivious as to why “Pakistan is treated with such little respect”. It is not because Pakistan ” has made very little effort to get involved in global economic and political matters”. It is precisely because of Pakistan has become a global epicenter and exporter of terrorism as consequence of its warped geopolitical policies.

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  • MarkH
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:09AM

    @kaalchakra:
    I’m honestly surprised you can read.

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  • kaalchakra
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:24AM

    It’s better if all stooges of the West hang up their hopes and leave Pakistan to those who are aashique of Mohammad Sallallahu Alihi Wa Sallam and who have full faith in Pakistan’s unique role in Allah’s plans.

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  • vasan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:37AM

    Ever since indepence in 1947, Pakistan;’s growth has been on just one thing, Amt of USD given as aid, concession loan, loan waiver etc etc. If one deducts all these, I wonder what would be pakistan’s growth rate in the past. I have a feeling it would be below India’s so called “Hindu Rate of Growth” till the 90s. Given this, I am puzzled how Pak is connected to S Korea and Indonesia which are economically and educationally much much more progressive than Pak,.Add to that that these countries are not breeding snakes inside, you know what I mean.
    Pak has to get out of religion in the state/interstate and intra state affairs and invest in education like there is no tomorrow. That is the only way out. Current exports are manpower and textiles. Pak should develop lots of agri based and fruit based industries both commodities and processed segment. Concerted effors by economic managers should get the required money to invest in educational sectors.

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  • Falcon
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:48AM

    @Max:
    Regarding your last paragraph, if this is all the most knowledgeable and wise people of this nation have to say, what do you expect the less informed and younger ones of the nation like us to do?

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  • Harry Stone
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:04AM

    @kaalchakra:

    What is the American point of view…….and what should the PAK point of view be? I am a bit confused about your comment so help me………Thanks.

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  • alicia
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:52AM

    @kaalchakra
    Bhai please we all know u r an Indian embarassing Pakistan. Just stop already

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  • cynical
    Apr 9, 2012 - 2:38PM

    @alicia

    Why should Pakistan feel embarassed? What is embarassing about Pakistan? @kaalchakra or not.

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  • Max
    Apr 9, 2012 - 3:02PM

    @Falcon:
    These are accumulated frustrations with the way things are moving in Pakistan for last 65 years and I have seen things turning worst from bad.

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  • wonderer
    Apr 9, 2012 - 3:07PM

    @kaalchakra:

    Could you Sir, please let us know what is “Pakistan’s unique role in Allah’s plans.”?

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 9, 2012 - 3:12PM

    I agree with the main points of the author’s analysis. Not only are we unfocussed amid many fatal distractions, we do not have people of high caliber. No one in a policy-making position even reads and far less understands global dynamics; they are too busy putting out the fires at home.

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  • gp65
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:49PM

    “Do we, in Pakistan, know that James O’Neill, the author of the BRICS idea has now come up with another suggestion? He believes that the world would do well to watch the progress being made by another group of countries he calls the “new eleven”. ”

    The concept of Next 11 is not very new. It was published within a couple of years after publishing the BRIC report. Pakistan was initially part of the Next 11. It would be interesting to observe whether it can hold that place.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:04PM

    why not the third BLOC which was the idea of Z.A Bhutto shaheed.

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  • naeem khan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:42PM

    what do you expect from this duo in Islamabad, they only know the sleaze game and how to enrich themselves and their families,Who exactly are the policy makers in Islamabad,Zardari, Gilani, Malik or that doctor of law, Awan.I appreciate your concern and your intellect and believe me there is no shortage of people of high caliber in Pakistan but they are pushed aside and the incompetents are superimposed upon them by this current regime.Thank you for serving the nation.

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  • kaalchakra
    Apr 10, 2012 - 9:55PM

    Alicia

    Sister, I am surprised and deeply pained to know that you are “embarrassed” of

    (1) Imran Khan – are you embarrassed of all those Pakistanis who support him and see hope in him?
    (2) Professor Saeed Hafiz – without any evidence against him?
    (3) Pakistan’s point of view – why is that not legitimate?
    (4) Being Aashique-e-rasool – please let’s not discuss it openly.

    Which of these causes you embarrassment and why?Recommend

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