In July 1944, more than 700 delegates from 44 countries around the world gathered at Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in the US, to begin discussions on the institutions that would come to govern the post-Second World War economy. Almost exactly 71 years later, delegations from 57 countries gathered in Beijing in what may well become the beginning of the new global economic order. As it begins the process of creating the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), we welcome the idea of China taking a greater leadership role in the world, as is its right and responsibility. From Pakistan’s perspective, having access to both the World Bank and the AIIB will diversify the country’s ability to tap global capital markets, and may well enhance the government’s ability to undertake key development infrastructure projects. In time, if Islamabad plays its cards right, having access to both of these credit lines may result in a permanently higher economic growth rate for Pakistan. For that, we are glad that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar made the decision to attend the recent summit in Beijing.
Of course, Pakistan must be careful not to antagonise the US in deepening its relationship with China. Thankfully, playing the balancing role between Washington and Beijing is something of a tradition among Pakistani diplomats since the days of Henry Kissinger’s secret trips to meet Chou Enlai via Chaklala. We would like to remind American diplomats who may be tempted to complain about Pakistan’s relationship with China that the only reason the AIIB exists is because the US Congress refused to ratify a change in the structure of the World Bank that would have given Beijing a role in the original Bretton Woods institutions in proportion to its current economic heft. The US refusal to recognise China’s rise is what persuaded Beijing to create its own global economic institutions. Having failed to adjust to changing global realities, the US cannot now complain when even some of its closest global allies, including the UK, France and Germany, have decided to join the AIIB.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2015.
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