Economic soft belly at cross hairs


Sikandar Noorani

IT is hard to deny that deteriorated economy now happens to be new soft belly of Pakistan. Frequent punching on soft belly by annoyed contestants, like India and USA, should not be treated non-seriously by decision makers sitting in Islamabad. Long sermon on CPEC related debts by top US diplomat Allice Wells must be viewed in relation with Indian desperate moves to black list Pakistan through FATF, Modi’s frequent threats to block water, extra-ordinary lengthy inquiries made by IMF authorities at the time of granting loan and persistent RAW sponsored terrorism in Balochistan as confessed by Wing Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav. Amid such focused coercive moves, efforts to explore peace probabilities among various stakeholders in South Asia must be consistently accelerated to restore durable stability in the region. Vibrant projects like CPEC and OBOR under Chinese initiative have provided a valid reason to open the windows of cooperation among the regional players. Defusing regional tension by enhancing economic and cultural ties has remained a strong suggestion from a few intellectual quarters. Idea must not be compromised by giving an undue advantage to the world’s so called self style largest democracy who is deeply involved in massive human rights violations in occupied-Kashmir, cross-border terrorism and patronization of proxies in neighbouring countries. Definitely, economic ties can help in reducing the probabilities of military clashes, which might prove deadlier than our imaginations due to nuclear capability on either side, but it is also a bitter reality that a purposeful tie can never be built unilaterally. India, being the bigger player by virtue of her size, has never been serious about building sincere economic ties with Pakistan. As far as cultural ties are concerned even Dalits being Hindus are yet unable to find a respectable status in highly prejudiced Indian society so any acceleration with Pakistan on such vague grounds remains an impossible act. Realistically viewing the ground factors, Pakistan very rightly moved forward to strengthen the economic ties with China through CPEC as the world neither starts with nor ends at India and USA. Despite having multi dimensional irritants, like American deep interests as well as physical presence in the region, Pakistan courageously applied the wisdom to become part of a potentially dynamic regional economic project. Definitely, we need not to put all our eggs in one basket and must pursue the possible details of the project with sharp precision and minutely. Indo-USA offensive intentions towards the CPEC are driven by serious concerns which can be understood by viewing CPEC through geo-strategic lens as the Corridor provides an alternative route to link the important Central Asian Republics (CARs – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) which are otherwise closely located to China. It provides equally good connectivity options to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Interestingly, and to the horror of New Delhi and Washington, the CPEC has emerged as an antidote idea to the old myth that all roads from Pakistan into Central Asia go through Kabul or Wakhan. CPEC provides immense opportunities to CARs to expand trade with Pakistan and also go through China for further trade expansion. It is not an idea conceived on air conditioned desks of intellectualssitting totally off-sighted from ground realities. On one hand CPEC is progressing rapidly in Pakistan and on the other hand a positive approach has taken roots in CARs about the project. Reportedly, CARs are all set to be part of the CPEC in later stages. Abundance of natural resources in CARs like oil, gas, gold and precious metals multiply the investment potentials of all projects and industrial zones linked with CPEC. Obviously, recent warmth in bi- lateral relations with Russia would add to the better prospects of wider regional connectivity through multilateral tracks. Pakistan has rightly emerged as a regional player standing tall against the storm of terrorism and simultaneously contributing heavily to build a durable economic connectivity all across the region. Unfortunately, India has proved herself otherwise by pursuing coercive policies against Pakistan and ultra-manipulative manoeuvrings against smaller countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Modi regime went all out to incapacitate the forum of SAARC which caused additional tensions in the region. Vigorous pursuance of proxies in Afghanistan to destabilise the Pakistan has so farfetched nothing good rather fuelled the fire in already war ridden Afghan society. Pakistan is striving hard to fight out all the odds generated by India and standing as a flag bearer of peace. Though, India has been persistently criticising upon CPEC by beating the dead horse with rotten argument that the Corridor passes through the disputed territory of Kashmir, but her indirect involvement in any other regional connectivity project might help in reducing the probabilities of armed clash on any other dispute including Kashmir. Modi regime should realise that by sponsoring terrorism and proxies against Pakistan or any other neighbour, India would not be able to reverse the wheel in occupied-Kashmir. Likewise standing along the foreign forces like USA in Afghanistan, which are contributing to worsen the crisis against regional stakeholders, India can never explore a way forward to fetch peace back at home front. By coercing Pakistan, Modi can temporarily satisfy the extremist Hindu circles but cannot overcome the day by day worsening inner fissures spread all over India including Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Mizoram and Nagaland. Undoubtedly, economic ties can serve as an effective sweetener against the bitter recipe of conventional or non-conventional war probabilities in South Asia.

(Writer is a retired army officer and a freelance.)