The world is in a state of flux. Fast moving developments are rapidly transforming the global scenario. Nations that are able to bring about adjustments in their internal and external policies in line with the global trends will prosper. Those which fail to do so will be left far behind in the international race for progress, prosperity and security. Obviously, a comprehension of the global trends and the forces driving them is a must for any nation which wishes to do well in this competition. Unfortunately, this comprehension is generally lacking in Pakistan. Little wonder, therefore, that Pakistan’s internal and external policies, many a time, have been out of touch with the global realities.

Historically speaking, Pakistan has paid a heavy price for swimming against international currents. For example, Pakistan’s nationalization policy of 1970’s, which stunted Pakistan’s private sector and slowed the country’s economic growth, was in deviation from the emerging international trend in favour of allowing the private sector to run the business while the governments focused on providing a regulatory framework for their activities. Pakistan reversed gears much later in 1990’s after it had suffered enough from the consequences of the nationalization policy of 1970’s. In the field of internal politics, while there was an international trend towards democracy, Pakistan remained the victim of the military dictatorship in most of 1980’s under Zia-ul-Haq and later under Pervez Musharraf from 1999 to 2008. The result was continued political instability, the weakening of state institutions, absence of the rule of law, slowdown of economic growth, and the inability of the elected governments to provide good governance. In external affairs, Pakistan’s ill-conceived Kashmir and Afghanistan policies of 1990’s are another example of the country pursuing policies which ran counter to international trends. Unsurprisingly, they failed miserably. Pakistan is still suffering from the consequences of those policies in the form of the tidal wave of religious extremism and terrorism sweeping the country.

In view of these bitter experiences, Pakistan’s leaders and senior officials, both civilian and military, must make a special effort to comprehend the current global trends. The first and foremost among them is the international trend towards democracy. It is a measure of the hold of the concept of democracy on the mind of an average citizen that even military dictators try to cloak their dictatorial rule under the garb of the democratic jargon. Considering the awareness brought about by education and the mass media, especially the television, it is natural for the citizens to expect their governments to reflect their views and preferences in governance. This is possible only under democracy. Periodic elections at national, provincial and local levels provide a check against the governments going astray for too long. A democratic government also has the advantage of being in the company of similar other governments around the globe, which currently play a critically important role in the determination of international political, security, economic and commercial policies. So it should be our effort to strengthen the democratic institutions in the country, which alone can provide good governance in the long run in contrast with military dictatorships from which the country has suffered grievously in the past.

There is also an international consensus against terrorism in various forms and manifestations. Any country which tolerates terrorist groups and organizations is likely to be isolated in the international community. Unfortunately, Pakistan, despite its declaratory position against terrorism, pursued operational policies in the past which left room for ambiguity in our resolve to combat terrorism. Time has come, especially after the tragic terrorist attack on the army public school in Peshawar on 16 December, 2014, for us to adopt a clear and resolute position in combating terrorism. Henceforth, no terrorist or militant organization, without any exception whatsoever, should be allowed to operate in the country. As in other civilized countries, the state must have a total monopoly in the use of force both within the country and in our dealings with foreign countries. Hopefully, the national action plan on combating terrorism, adopted recently, will help us in reaching that goal.

In the emerging global scenario, economic strength of a country is a critically important element in judging its over-all ranking and position in the comity of nations besides ensuring economic well-being of the people. Not only that, the long-term security of a country is also closely linked to its economic and technological strength since a heavy military superstructure built upon weak economic foundations will crumble sooner or later. The Soviet Union disintegrated not because of any shortage of conventional or non-conventional weapons but partly because its weak economy could not sustain the burden of its large military establishment. Our aim, therefore, should be to give top priority to the task of economic development while maintaining a credible security deterrent at the lowest level of armaments. In the pursuit of the goal of rapid economic growth, we must pay the highest attention to education and scientific and technological development without which progress in the modern knowledge-driven world is inconceivable.

The global scenario is being gradually transformed by the rapid growth of the economic and military strength of the emerging powers like China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Nigeria, and South Africa. China has already become the biggest economy in the world in purchasing power parity terms. Even in nominal dollar terms it is likely to surpass the US as the biggest economy in the world towards the end of the next decade. The emerging powers, therefore, will play an increasingly important role in the deliberations on international trade and economic issues. The ability of the Western countries to take decisions in these fields on their own will be rapidly curtailed although the West including the US, EU, Canada and Australia will continue to play an important role in these areas. The centre of gravity of the world economy will shift, in due course, to Asia which will have many of the big or rapidly growing economies like China, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia and other ASEAN countries. Our foreign trade and economic policies must be reoriented to take into account this momentous transformation of the global economic scene.

These economic changes inevitably will have their repercussions in the security field. The US is already re-balancing its forces in favour of the Asia-Pacific region and strengthening its alliances to contain China. India is seen by the US as a linchpin in its strategy to contain the expansion of China’s power and influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. The growing shift to the right in the Indian politics as reflected by the BJP victory in the general elections last year under the leadership of Narendra Modi, who is steeped in the extremist policies of RSS, carries ominous portents for Pakistan. These developments call for the strengthening of Pakistan’s strategic partnership with China, lessening of its dependence on the US while maintaining close friendly relations with it and the EU, the adoption of a non-provocative and non-adventurous policy towards India in the interest of a tension-free relationship, and the lowering of our expectations from India and the SAARC. We should also build up our friendly relations with Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Central Asian Republics and other Muslim countries to strengthen our security.

In short, the transformation of the global economic and security environment calls for a radical recalibration of our internal and external policies to come to grips with the challenges posed by the current global trends. Our failure to do so will expose Pakistan to grave economic and security risks.

The writer is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs. He can be contacted at