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Economic options for Pakistan

Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

The economic interests of Pakistan dictate that it will either have to join
any economic grouping on the pattern of European Union or enhance its
trade relations with the countries of the SAARC by transforming the
organization into a coherent organization. The inclusion of China and Iran
also appears to be a realistic possibility as the politics of bloc is taking
root across the globe. Europe had integrated into a Union at the right
time and has now reached a position wherefrom it is threatening for the
US economy. The Iranian decision to use Euro for its trade with Europe
dealt a sever blow to the US dollar. The Bloc Politics has proven to be
very beneficial for the member countries. We also need to take up this
route and for that, we will have to open up our borders and enter into
new trade arrangements with the world. The countries of the European
Union put their mutual differences at the backburner and moved ahead.
We will also have to do the same. SAARC also reached certain
agreements within the member countries but they could not be
implemented in true letter and spirit.
We can approach the subject from two angles i.e. integration and
inclusion of certain new countries in the reinvigorated SAARC. The
economic angle involves the common market, which will be instrumental
in cutting down unemployment. Every country has its own national
interests and industries, which face the prospect of being threatened and
that can be discussed. For example the textile industry of China and India
is far ahead of Pakistan's. As a result, Pakistan's textile industry is on the
losing side. So when these countries decide to get associated in the form
of a bloc, all these things can be discussed.
There are two countries, India and China, in the neighbourhood of
Pakistan, so huge are their economies that they have the potential of
devouring the small economies. Germany and France had antagonistic
relations and were each other's enemies but when they hit upon the idea
of joining their respective forces for their common goal i.e. economic
development, they put their differences at the backburner and moved
ahead. The result is the formation of the European Union.
People may object here to my inclusion of China in any such economic
Union by saying that we have religious and cultural differences with
China. Two or three factors are important in this regard. There are no
religious barriers in Europe. The differences in cultural matters were also
very minimal. The number of countries in European Union was 10 but
after the participation of 15 countries of the East Europe, who are
relatively poor, it has reached 25. The countries like Germany and France
are having to face problems but they have worked out 10-year plan
according to which these countries will be spending certain portion of their
incomes on the uplift of the poor countries of the Europe. This speaks
volumes of the commitment of these countries towards the improvement
of socio-economic conditions of their brethren in Europe.
So far as India and Pakistan are concerned, there are, no doubt, cultural
and religious differences among them. But the policy of keeping the
borders shut is not a solution to protecting your religious values. We are
confused over the issue of national identity. The problem is that we have
not got any nationalistic leadership. Whoever came to hold the mantle of
power turned out to be corrupt and self-serving. Therefore religion is not
an issue in that sense. All we need to do is to realize that getting together
on one platform is a compulsion now. The question of reaping the
economic gains from the collective efforts should be seen without its
reference to religion. The best example is the good economic relationship
enjoyed by Iran and India. We are refusing to enter into the era of
science and technology in the name of religion. It is a different matter
that our religion does not hinder us from doing that.
Iran has never been a part of Arab land nor will it be able to. There is a
huge difference of opinions between Arab countries and Iran. China is a
giant in economic terms. It has a large population which China has
transformed into an asset. India is a developing economy and is in a
position to support the countries like Nepal and Bhutan. So when South
Asia will be ready to form economic grouping, Iran will not commit a
blunder of staying out. The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline
project is a case in point.
The question may arise as to the possibility of large economies being a
threat to the small economies. Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh may be
fearful of China. When you join each other in the form of a bloc, it
becomes clear that whatever progress you could have achieved in your
industry, you achieved. If Pakistan has not been able to strengthen its
industry in the last 60 years, it cannot do that now. If it thinks that it can
do that, then, it is a pipedream. Times are gone now. For example our
textile industry is faced with difficulties since 2005 and has been
demanding concessions from the government. And we do not have the
potential to make it competitive globally.
So in order to succeed, we will have to seek cooperation from other
countries. Pakistan should try to explore its avenues in terms of its strong
industries like sports industry etc. Our agricultural industry is better but
due to short-sightedness of our policy makers, we have not been able to
capitalize on this with the result that fruits and agricultural products
produced in Pakistan are being sold in the international market with the
Indian stamp. The best course available in this situation is the exploration
of those industries where Pakistan has comparative advantage. It should
also do an analysis of the industries in which other countries are in a
better position. So after being clear on this subject, Pakistan can enter
into agreements with other countries to give protection to some industries
and demand the same from them for some others.
In my view, Pakistan is not yet in a position of take-off, which may put it
on the path of progress and prosperity. It is groping in the dark to find its
direction. It has not been able to come out of its fixations. Pakistan has
an important role to play in the region and its interests cannot be
neglected by anyone. People are in search of practicable economic model
for achieving progress but the way our successive governments have
been making policies in the economic domain, I am afraid, has eroded the
already fragile relationship between government and people. Our
leadership needs to assure people that our country can still take off.
Pakistan is an agricultural country and its agricultural products have very
good quality. India has a large area but its soil is not that much fertile as
ours. So Pakistan is the producer of fruit of some of the best quality but
unfortunately, it bears the Indian stamp. The same is the case with our
wheat, rice, mango and other fruit. The Pakistani exporters should export
these items in fair manner.
It is only be becoming powerful on the economic domain can we secure
our country from the internal and external threats. Economic policy
making is very closely associated with improving the condition of man in
the street. Therefore it is does not achieve this purpose, whatever
progress a government may claim will remain merely that: progress on
the paper. The recent crises Pakistan has been subjected to are very
harmful for our internal unity. We had better take a deep look and come
up with innovative solution rather than following the old jargons, which
have failed us many a time in the past.