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‘Pakistan should not be coerced into choosing between US, China’

By Our Correspondent
March 06, 2023

Islamabad: Poet-philosopher Iqbal provides the intellectual foundation for building a peaceful world based on the idea of global cooperation rather than dominance, says Professor Sachs while delivering the 2023 Iqbal Lecture at the University of Oxford, says a press release.

The Oxford Pakistan Programme hosted the annual Allama Iqbal Lecture with renowned economist and public intellectual, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, delivering a wide-ranging lecture on the “Geopolitics of peace” to a packed audience in Lady Margaret Hall in the University of Oxford. Professor Sachs is a world-renowned economist, author, and advisor to governments around the world. He is also the Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and a leading advocate of United Nations Millennium Development Goals. His work focuses on promoting sustainable development.

In his lecture, Professor Sachs highlighted the adverse implications of the geo-political tensions between United States and emerging powers like Russia and China. He emphasised the need for a new approach to international relations that prioritises cooperation over domination, and mutual understanding over conflict. He stressed that academic scholarship should focus not only on the description of the causes of wars but also towards the prescription of the paths to peace.

Professor Sachs highlighted the significance of Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s intellectual thought, especially his vision for a world that is free of exploitation and based on justice and solidarity. He described Iqbal as a man of peace who advocated cooperation and dialogue between civilizations. Professor Sachs quoted the message delivered by Iqbal to Lahore radio station a few months before his death in 1938 in which he had argued that the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity cannot be realized unless we consider the whole world as one “family of God”. Prof Sachs highlighted the relevance of this message for both its own time, having been delivered a few years before the World War, but also for contemporary global affairs that require new geopolitics of peace and cooperation. Speaking with journalists on the side-lines of the lecture, Professor Sachs advised that poor developing countries like Pakistan that have historically enjoyed close relations with both China and United States should not be coerced into choosing sides.

The lecture attracted a large audience of Oxford students, senior academics, and several heads of departments and faculties. The High Commissioner for Pakistan to United Kingdom, Mr Moazzam Ahmad Khan, his wife, and guests from London were also in attendance. On this occasion, Mr Abdul Ghani Dadabhoy, the Executive Director of the Dadabhoy Foundation that supports education and social development initiatives in Pakistan and sponsors the Allama Iqbal lecture series at the University of Oxford, stressed the need for dialogue and collaboration. He reiterated the support of the Dadabhoy Foundation in facilitating such conversations and providing a platform to global experts, such as Prof Sachs, to share their knowledge and expertise.

The Oxford Pakistan Programme is a multi-pronged initiative that seeks to promote academic collaboration between the University of Oxford and Pakistan. The programme offers scholarships and research grants to Pakistan-origin students. The Iqbal lecture was live streamed from Oxford to around 50 participating universities across Pakistan, a list that not only included the well-known universities such as LUMS and IBA but also higher education institutions in far-flung areas, such as Mardan’s Women’s University, the University of Turbat in Baluchistan, and Karakoram University in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Commenting on the significance of this model of engagement, the Programme’s co-founders Professor Adeel Malik, Dr Talha Jamal Pirzada, and Mr Haroon Zaman emphasized the need to make scholarly voices shaping the global discourse accessible to Pakistani students who would otherwise not be able to engage with such speakers. The Iqbal lecture series, they highlighted, also plays an important role in generating a holistic debate on the campus and in creating an important cultural bridge between Oxford and Pakistan. The Iqbal lecture is held annually and aims to draw prominent scholars, intellectuals, and policymakers from around the world.