The political economy of peace

Published: April 15, 2012
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The writer is Distinguished Professor of Economics, Forman Christian College University and Beaconhouse National University

The writer is Distinguished Professor of Economics, Forman Christian College University and Beaconhouse National University

This may be a watershed moment in the post independence history of Pakistan and India. Four features define this moment which if grasped can help build a better future for their peoples: (a) Pakistan is in the process of establishing democracy as India is trying to deepen it; (b) a broad consensus has emerged amongst mainstream political parties and rational elements in civil society in both countries, that peace is a necessary condition for the democratic endeavour as well as for development; (c) a seismic shift is taking place in the centre of gravity of the global economy for the first time in three centuries from the West to the region in which India and Pakistan are located. If these two countries can cooperate, they can help create in their region the greatest economic powerhouse in human history: an economically integrated South Asia could become the second largest economy in the world after China over the next three decades; (d) amidst this great economic opportunity has emerged the grave threat of climate change, which could undermine the ecological life support systems of South Asia, unless mitigation and adaptation measures are urgently undertaken within a framework of cooperation. Let us briefly outline the political economy of this moment.

The recent historic decisions taken by the Pakistan government towards free trade with India in consonance with the earlier South Asian Free Trade Area agreement are: granting in principle, MFN status to India; converting the earlier positive list which restricted trade to a few specified items, into a negative list which allows trade in all items except those in the negative list, together with a commitment to reduce even this negative list to a minimum by the end of this year; collaboration to reduce non tariff barriers by both sides within a specified time frame. These major decisions reflect a change in the balance of power in favour of elected civil authority within the informal power structure that underlies the formal institutional structure of democracy in Pakistan and shapes the governmental decision-making process. Democratic functioning has also drawn strength from the passage of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Constitutional Amendments, an independent judiciary and a parliament united in its effort to protect democracy. The overthrow of an elected government by a military adventurer has become much more difficult.

Sustaining democracy in both Pakistan and India requires giving a stake in citizenship to all of the people rather than only a few, in terms of participating in the growth process, as well as governance. This requires institutional changes within the two countries to make both economic and political processes inclusive. Such inclusiveness in the institutional structures of the economy and polity would sustain and give meaning to the process of economic growth. Vital to such an undertaking is the establishment of intrastate peace. However, combating militant extremism which threatens this peace requires interstate peace and cooperation.

Cooperation has now become a matter of survival, given the threat to the life support systems of the region’s integrated ecology. The latest evidence suggests that three kinds of stresses on the economies and societies are likely to occur as a result of climate change over the next three decades: firstly, water stress. The minimum per-person water requirement per year is 1,700 cubic meters. As against this the water availability for Pakistan being 1,329 cubic meters per person per year is already at the water stress level; India is expected to reach water stress levels by 2025, with water availability reaching 1,140 cubic metres per person per year. Secondly, rising average temperatures are expected to result in a 30 per cent decline in yields per acre of food grains in South Asia in the next four decades according to a UN Report. Thirdly, rising sea levels will cause salinisation of low elevation coastal agriculture  zones resulting in loss of livelihoods and displacement of over 125 million people in South Asia. Thus, adaptation and mitigation measures through regional cooperation are necessary not only to sustain growth but to survive.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 15, 2012 - 11:53PM

    I wish we were one country with govt system like lebanon.

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  • BlackJack
    Apr 16, 2012 - 12:39AM

    If these two countries can cooperate, they can help create in their region the greatest economic powerhouse in human history:
    Even optimistic projections of intra-region trade do not place it at more than $8 bn per year; and for export markets, Pakistan will continue to compete with India in a few markets like textiles – I don’t see how we can becoming a single economic powerhouse. Pls first take advantage of the existing SAFTA agreement before looking at becoming bigger than the US and China.

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  • Pollack
    Apr 16, 2012 - 12:49AM

    @Ali Tanoli: what? Hezbollah is the real power in Lebanon. You want such a setup here?

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  • Ramiz
    Apr 16, 2012 - 1:40AM

    Why cant the three big Asian countries (Pak,india,china) join hands and make Asia the power house of the world . make a new Asian union called the three Asian tigers. India and china are already on track and im sure Pak can do the same, These three countries control more than a third of worlds population.

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  • mrk
    Apr 16, 2012 - 2:56AM

    It`s not a race that the 3 nations have to join economically in order to become the largest power. And then what?
    This infatuation with becoming no. 1 (in god knows what sense) is a dumb way of looking at things. Each of these entities represent their own specific issues/people preferences/wants/needs and each would satisfy them in ones own way.
    Additionally, joining of India and China, for example, leaving political issues aside, is not really going to improve the economic conditions of individuals therein.
    Globalization is the way to go in general and in that respect, increased regional cooperation is beneficial taking care of the fact that the smaller nation is able to protect its industry from agressive entry from a larger nation.
    The author’s points, once again, assume a lot that make his conclusions highly questionable.

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  • Sinclair
    Apr 16, 2012 - 3:41AM

    @Ramiz

    The problem is Pakistan would think it owns this group on account of practicing the perfect religion of Islam. Leave Pakistan out of the equation, simply India-China can become more than what the trifecta you laid out could ever try to. But India-China know that ganging up is of no good for anybody, unlike some other powers of the world. So we compete-collaborate to produce a longer-lasting development than just short term ganging up against the west.

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  • Falcon
    Apr 16, 2012 - 5:35AM

    Very informative article specially the last paragraph with detailed figures

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  • Chotta Panda
    Apr 16, 2012 - 6:05AM

    I don’t know why the Pakistanis always want to ride somebody else’s coat tail. In the past, it was the US then it was the Saudi Arabia, UAE then it is China and now it is China and India. It shows lack of confidence in one’s inherent ability or a servile slave mentality or both.

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  • MarkH
    Apr 16, 2012 - 7:02AM

    @Ramiz:
    The reaction to Pakistan merely talking about giving India MFN status would be one example.

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  • Max
    Apr 16, 2012 - 7:03AM

    Thank you for touching on this very important topic. I am glad to hear that people in both countries are now going through a paradigm shift. Obviously intelligentsia has played a major role and will do further. The two should have never been confrontational but then there were too many factors. Some of these of their own making and some came in dajj (dowry) with strategic interests of others. Both went two far endangering not only the well-being of the people but their livelihood. There still is chance and lot can be done that goes beyond economic integration or trade.
    Good job Dr. Sahib.

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  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    Apr 16, 2012 - 9:11AM

    Laws of nature will prevail upon all other laws. Pakistan will have no options but to fall in place and live peacefully with all her neighbors. Take my words and all this will happen in next 5-10 years.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Apr 16, 2012 - 10:36AM

    @Ali Tanoli: ” … I wish we were one country with govt system like lebanon. … “

    No sane person would want a system like Lebanon – where the Prime Minister has to be of one religion, the President has to be of another religion, etc.

    There is nothing more effective than a secular one-person, one-vote system.

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  • A Peshawary
    Apr 16, 2012 - 11:11AM

    Nice article, Only one thing is making is happen that is DEMOCRACY. if it continues for an other two free and fair election, people’s will be bring fruits to area.
    Gilani

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  • gp65
    Apr 16, 2012 - 12:59PM

    Author says”Sustaining democracy in both Pakistan and India requires giving a stake in citizenship to all of the people rather than only a few, in terms of participating in the growth process, as well as governance. This requires institutional changes within the two countries to make both economic and political processes inclusive. Such inclusiveness in the institutional structures of the economy and polity would sustain and give meaning to the process of economic growth. Vital to such an undertaking is the establishment of intrastate peace.”

    This implies that to sustan democracy in India, there needs to be peace between India and Pakistan. Not true. Despite multiple wars initiated by Pakistan, India has managed to sustain its democracy. Would it help if India could believe Pakistan’s peaceful intentions and get a peace divident absolutely. But democracy in India will sustain regardless of Pakistan’s behavior.

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  • Shah
    Apr 16, 2012 - 2:55PM

    The author has articulated stance with hardcore date which make is argument very convincing.

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