Towards the end of international conflicts certain new blocs generally emerge, owing to the long-term economic interests of global powers. Today, a whole new set of geoeconomic issues has come out in the open to face the ongoing geopolitical realities.
Analysts are yet to see whether geoeconomics will have any influence on geopolitics or vice versa. The economic and social impact of new geopolitical realities is huge, especially after the Ukraine war. For Pakistan, the conflict coupled with the effects and after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has multiplied its economic woes, pushing it towards a horrible recession and ringing the alarm bells for sovereign default.
The World Economic Forum in Davos has spelled out a theme of cooperation in the politically fragmented world, facing the challenges of extreme weather conditions to achieve energy and food security with the affordable cost of living. Advancements in technology know no boundaries, contributing towards economic growth and prosperity. But the ongoing geopolitical conflicts have paused such developments.
Energy and food security can easily be achieved through political consensus and economic cooperation using hi-tech methods and transfer of technology. The world desperately needs this kind of cooperation as it is facing challenges of rising inflation and the high cost of living. It is absolutely necessary to get rid of political conflicts — the Ukraine war — to save humanity from hunger and starvation.
Regional conflicts all over the world have marred economic prosperity by further disturbing any future prospects of social cohesion among the international communities. World leaders need to reach a political consensus to deal with the ongoing global economic issues. South Asia has been hit the hardest by such conflicts. India’s attitude regarding the Kashmir issue is a major roadblock. Human rights violations in the valley and the denial of the right to self-determination to the people of Kashmir have created serious problems that need to be addressed by the political leadership of India and Pakistan.
The universal fact that geographical neighbours cannot be replaced must be realized in all its essence and necessity to improve relations in the larger interest of the people. South Asian people are suffering from regional conflicts, especially the Kashmir issue. Pakistan’s economic conditions are similar to that of pre-default Sri Lanka. If Pakistan defaults, it will have devastating effects on the financial conditions of the people. Millions of Pakistanis are living below the poverty line. The crime rate and violence in society is alarmingly high partly due to rising inflation and the high cost of living. Opting for conflict resolution would be in the best interest of the people and such responsibility lies with India more than any other country of the region.
Trade and commerce in the region can expand and benefit all in South Asia, if we focus specifically on Saarc countries. It is one of the most populated regions of the world, where the market of almost 22 per cent of the world population exists. It is also true that trade among Saarc countries can bring prosperity and growth through cost-cutting measures, reducing the carriage and transportation cost at least. The global recession can better be averted through integration and regional cooperation. Hyperinflation and food security can better be achieved through regional trade if India is willing to promote a development paradigm in place of its hegemonic designs. Efforts by India and Pakistan can bring down inflation in the South Asian region through mutual trade and commerce.
Pakistan previously offered talks with India, realizing the importance of geographical realities. But the Indian response was disappointing. Terrorism in the region is a common problem for all countries including, but not limited to, Afghanistan and needs to be addressed at the earliest. India must realize that terrorism and terrorist networks could only be uprooted through mutual efforts of cooperation and coordination at all levels. The Kashmir issue is to be addressed first to combat headwinds of terrorism and human rights violations.
India-Pakistan relations have a history of lows, which include multiple wars. This relationship needs to improve through confidence-building measures. The main problem with India is that it is being ruled by Modi, who has a record of extremist tendencies in dealing with regional issues. The recent past has witnessed alteration of the status of Indian-held Kashmir against the spirits of the UN resolution and the wishes of Kashmiris. Given these circumstances, the dialogue proposal by PM Shehbaz Sharif should have been a welcome move and taken positively. We can only hope that sanity will prevail and the two countries will start the dialogue process for the betterment of one of the world’s most sensitive and important regions.
Pakistan is already dealing with the challenges of terrorism, especially at its western border. Its eastern border has always been sensitive due to its proximity to Kashmir and conflict with India. Pakistan needs to address its issues with all its neighbours for conflict resolution, getting rid of terrorism and improving trade and commerce for the overall development of the South Asian region. Pakistan can engage friendly countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE to resolve the Kashmir issue and the general state of relations with India.
Since the economic and social impact of geopolitical realities is huge, the issue of terrorism is most deadly, and should be addressed at all levels by engaging neighbours, especially Afghan- istan, for the betterment of the region. India must realize the fact that no country could progress without conflict resolution.
The visionary leadership of India and Pakistan can bring prosperity to the region through dialogue and cooperation in all fields, especially commerce and trade. But good faith is urgently needed on the part of India, which is apparently unfortunately lacking, for initiation of dialogue process. This needs to be improved.
The writer is a former additional secretary and can be reached at:
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