Maximising our options

Published: April 4, 2012
The writer was Pakistan’s ambassador to the EU from 2002-2004 and to the US in 1999

The writer was Pakistan’s ambassador to the EU from 2002-2004 and to the US in 1999 [email protected]

While the rest of the world is engaged in strengthening relations even with distant countries and establishing new economic partnerships, we remain mired in historic rivalries that are often nourished by historic memories and unrealistic estimations of our own strength.

This is evident from the unprecedented isolation in which we find ourselves, thanks to our long association with extremists and militants. Consequently, Pakistan arouses unfavourable responses even in traditionally friendly countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia. This has had its inevitable fall-out leaving us bereft of truly committed friends, while reducing meaningful foreign investment that is so essential to shore up a faltering economy. If diplomacy is the art of maximising options, then we have certainly achieved the very opposite!

On the other hand, countries with conflicting interests have set aside tactical differences for strategic gains. Among the lesser known but increasingly relevant is BRICS, a group of five developing countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) that have little in common other than powerful ambitions, propelled by rapid economic growth. Ever since its first summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2009, at a time when most of Europe and the US were convulsed in deep recession, BRICS provided member states an influential platform to enhance their global profiles.

Not everyone, however, is convinced about its importance. Some point to historic Sino-Indian and Sino-Russian suspicions as factors impeding initial ambitious projections. Others point to the contradiction inherent in two of the five countries having to go a long way before being considered democratic.

Last week’s summit meeting in Delhi came amidst fresh questions about its role and relevance. The leaders pledged to expand trade, urged faster reforms in the Western dominated global financial system and also endorsed the Group of 20 major economies as being the “premier forum” for addressing global financial issues. They, however, failed to agree on the modalities of creating a new development bank to rival the World Bank, though they did sign agreements that will enable greater use of local currencies in trade within the group, rather than the dollar. On both Iran and Syria, they called for dialogue, not military intervention.

Of course, there are detractors of BRICS in the West who do not favour the emergence of another pole of global influence. Within India as well, some point to its failure to come up with agreed objectives and a common vision, which encourages them to advocate that India not get distracted by initiatives about a “new global architecture” and instead continue to “play” within existing Western-led institutions. In fact, some observers claim that it is the vigour with which the US is nudging India towards strengthening its political and military cooperation with Australia, Japan and South Korea –– ostensibly as partners of the US in the latter’s China containment policy –– that has stymied the group’s progress. These same lobbies suspect that given the strength and vibrancy of the Chinese economy, BRICS could end up becoming an instrument of Chinese foreign policy.

India also has differing views from those of China and Russia on Iran and Afghanistan. It does not necessarily see eye to eye with other countries on Pakistan. The countries also have differences on Security Council reforms. Nevertheless, they all favour closer cooperation and coordination, particularly on economic issues.

Moreover, a grouping that brings together almost half of the world’s population and a fifth of its GDP –– with combined economies worth almost $13 trillion and expected to double in the coming decade –– cannot but be seen as an important factor in global economic matters.

This is where Pakistan has failed to leverage its geostrategic location, by not taking advantage of its membership in either of the two regional organisations — the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the Economic Cooperation Organisation. We have to move beyond pious hopes and instead focus on concrete actions.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Falcon
    Apr 4, 2012 - 1:54AM

    It is not militant groups alone, as much credit goes to our ‘patriotic’ politicians and bureaucrats…please find on the link below an interesting insight from a disgruntled alumni of the system:


  • Adeel759
    Apr 4, 2012 - 2:37AM

    Democratic forces have repeatedly tried and failed to position pakistan as constructive regional and global player but unfortunately our Intentionally Ill and Overly Calculated and Exaggerated National Security Priorities and Strengths have caused hindrances time and again. Pakistan needs to Bell The Wild Cats that has brought the country to “A Bridge To Nowhere”.Pakistan has all the ingredients and characteristics of becoming a functioning, thriving, prospering, developing, partnering, sharing and helping entity in the commity of the world.To begin with country needs to destroy the Himalayas of hate and terror and dig the oceanic depths of peace and prosperity.


  • khan
    Apr 4, 2012 - 5:02AM

    BRICS is purely an economic block, unlike other geopolitical blocks. While world and India raors ahead with prosperity, 30 million paki went below poverty line in last year. Our economy is on the verge of default as we start paying 9 billion IMF loan from this year. We are isolated as even China is now not willing to invest here, forget any other country. Looks like we are destined to be doomed in near future unless we change the basic image of pakistan and change the social structure.


  • Adeel759
    Apr 4, 2012 - 8:18AM

    It cant be more unfortunate that Pakistan lives in the immediate neighborhood of three of the five BRICS countries, and is unable to capitalize on its human capital, Geo Strategic Location and Resources, instead it treats its liabilities as assets and has written off its Assets as bad debts. I hope its leaders dont turn it into a SLUM amidst shining cities around it.


  • Apr 4, 2012 - 8:19AM

    Speaking of Pakistan and BRICS in the same sentence doesn’t make sense.

    The latter are really important players in the World and few are part of G20. Couple among them are giant economies and are expected to lead the World together.

    The former is a bankrupt state, Terror prone, Islamist, retrogressive, and at best a middle level power.

    The Author has the right intentions but has to stress more about the delusions of grandeur that Pakistanis are blessed with.


  • Harry Stone
    Apr 4, 2012 - 8:21AM


    First you need to change the culture of hate and lawlessness that results in deaths of those who do not agree. Then you can talk about image and social structure. It is about human values. Values where the love of life is greater than the love of death.


  • Salim Ansari
    Apr 4, 2012 - 9:21AM

    @khan: While world and India raors ahead with prosperity, 30 million pak went below poverty line in last year.

    ???? who to believe about India – sites like rupeenews prove India is a big mess.Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Apr 4, 2012 - 10:22AM


    mired in historic rivalries that are
    often nourished by historic memories
    and unrealistic estimations of our own

    It would be more appropriate if it’s;

    “mired in historic rivalries that are often nourished by imagined history and unrealistic estimations of our own strength”


  • BlackJack
    Apr 4, 2012 - 11:48AM

    @Salim Ansari:
    Why are you bothered whether India rises to the top or sinks to the bottom. (I am not saying dont keep yourself informed). But the problem with you guys is that your state of happiness is still linked to your neighbor’s house rather than yours. Regardless of India’s current situation (good/ bad/ ugly) – you cannot compete with us; get a life and an independent identity.


  • Altaf Hussain, Mumbai
    Apr 4, 2012 - 12:11PM

    Pakistan has what none of the five BRICS don’t have. Pakistan has mortar. A mortar strong enough to keep the country glued even when their women are flogged in public, their children are blown up in schools, their brethen are lined up and shot by the roadside, their elected leaders are slain by official bodygaurds, their young girls are forced to convert, et all.


  • joy
    Apr 4, 2012 - 12:41PM

    @ the author

    Sir , no offence meant..but would u pls educate me if this article of yours was about my country India or ur country Pakistan?

  • Feroz
    Apr 4, 2012 - 3:23PM

    Intellectuals and Writers are known to write long and elaborate articles with advise. However the rulers seem to want to take the country in a direction that can bring nothing but isolation and misery. Without a change in mindset the current direction cannot be changed. Today people are willing to kill other humans with differing beliefs – a return to animal kingdom. The country has Religious leaders who instead of preaching Love and Peace incite hate and provoke violence.
    Today the US is the country without whose financial and military aid Pakistan would struggle, but why hatred ? Remember only friends will tell you where you are going wrong, never your enemies. Hope the country will learn who its true friends and enemies are.


  • Azharuddin Masood
    Apr 4, 2012 - 3:51PM

    The author of this column Tariq Fatimi is rational and well informed columnist and an ardent supporter of peace and prosperity. I’ve heard him many a times on television debates and his views and suggestions are very rational and don’t have any ill will against India nor with any other country. The article is not about India but the author is trying to compare development of India with his country Pakistan which requires howling reforms and a complete paradigm shift to come out of the quagmire which it is into now.


  • Shahid
    Apr 4, 2012 - 5:37PM

    A very good point is raised here .Why we don’t compare ourselves to any other country , Iran,bangladesh or any other country in the world.Why our yard stick is always India. I totaly agree with Blackjack on this point. Unless we stop equating and competing with India we are doomed. Mr.Fatmi should be talking about what Pakistan can do to maximize its option and for godsake leave India alone.


  • Dr V. C. Bhutani
    Apr 4, 2012 - 6:19PM

    The ambassador seems to have poured out what came directly from his heart. I could not agree with him more. The future welfare of the peoples of South Asia in any case lies in their governments working together cooperatively and not in sterile beating of now this country and now that country by the others. If Saarc can graduate from its present sterility to meaningful cooperation, then the sky is the limit: countries of the region can use their own markets for their own produce as well as reach out to other markets with cooperation and understanding instead of competition or jealousy. Cooperation can mean enormous advantage to all of them – without exception. And why should Brics go on without Pakistan – someone will invent an appropriate acronym. I have no doubt that the Brics countries and Pakistan shall find a lot that they can do together – if only they would lay aside smaller inspirations.


  • elementary
    Apr 5, 2012 - 12:05AM

    @BruteForce: The way you gloat and boast on these blogs about india’s strength testifies that you too have been bestowed with enough of that Grandiose may have ambitions for it but you are not super power yet.there are many a slip between the cup and the lip and one of those is premature celebration.


  • Apr 5, 2012 - 8:01PM


    I am not stating anything different from what the Author is saying. It talks about BRICS, of which India is a member, as the next big set of powers to challenge the traditional ones.

    We all have seen how India has halved its poverty in the past 20 years and how it en route to becoming either the 2nd largest or the largest economy in the World.

    I am not gloating, I am merely stating facts.


  • elementary
    Apr 6, 2012 - 2:21AM

    Yes you dont have any grandiose delusion you only state facts and you were born to rule the world.And for how long has this been going on?


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