Globalisation is the product of this century which has deep impact on all parts and the nations of the world. Many new phenomena have emerged as a result of this exclusive globalisation. Regionalism is not such a new phenomenon but it has got an immense importance as a by-product of globalisation. New regional groups, unions and organisations have developed like the European Union and SAARC. China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative is also a form of regionalism. Both of these have the same objective of economic cooperation at the regional level as they are considerably successful.

Economic cooperation and development through regional organisations have not been a popular stance in our foreign and internal policies. Our efforts to become a part of such organisations are very week. In the past, we had good chances to gain benefits through regional pacts and accords, but it all remained ineffective. RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development) which was established by Pakistan, Iran and Turkey in 1964 had a great potential for Pakistan’s economic prosperity. Similarly, when ECO (Economic Cooperation Organisation) was revived in 1992 and 10 countries became its members; this could be a game changer in the region. That was a big economic opportunity for us. We could not envision its future prospects and its infrastructure were not established. Central Asian States which were liberated from the Soviet Union were landlocked and rich in natural resources. They along with Afghanistan needed a land route which could connect them to the world through the ports of Gwadar and Karachi. But due to the external pressure and internal deficiencies, we could not stabilise this organisation. Its result is that we could not get away with our economic dependencies on the West.

SAARC was established for the cultural, educational and economic cooperation in the South Asia. It could not perform up to the expectations due to the Indian intentions and behaviour. Recently in June 2017, Pakistan has become a full member of the Snanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This is a Eurasian organisation which is basically designed for the economic motives. This can be a beneficial bond for the members in the future, but remembering our past and present scenario, there is very little hope of its success for Pakistan.

Pakistan is a failure in the matters of regional cooperation. There are many factors involved in it. Afghanistan is a source of continuous unrest and terrorism in the South Asia for almost last four decades. Unfortunately, our ties with her are not so good. Indo-Afghan nexus at present has worsened these relations. Afghanistan is a natural geo-strategic partner of Pakistan but its authorities are ignoring the ground realities. This attitude is harmful for both the countries. Afghanistan is the third largest export market of Pakistan at present so it is needed to take solid steps not only to sustain this trade but also to enhance it. Similarly, Pakistan’s trade with India can be increased to a larger extent which is presently in favor of India. India can be given MFN (most favored nation) status but only after securing our own national interests.

Pakistan’s relations with Iran are rapidly deteriorating especially after the introduction of Indian factor. The failure of Pak-Iran Gas Pipe Line project has seriously damaged both countries’ interests. Sanctions have led Iran towards a closed economy. After nuclear agreement with the West, it was thought that the Iranian economy will strengthen slowly. But after American decision to come out of this agreement, has deteriorated the circumstances. Pakistan can have reasonable relations with Iran but our strong relations with Saudi Arabia are a hurdle in its way. Iran is in competition with CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) by developing Chah Bahar sea-port with the help and investment of India, so in near future, strong relations with Iran are not visible.

China is investing heavily in Pakistan especially on the CPEC. China’s vision is the promotion of regionalism but our three other neighbours are behaving in the opposite direction. Moreover, our region has deep divide of pro-American and pro-Chinese sentiments. Pakistan is naturally tilting towards Chinese side, so we are going to be economic partner of China. The new dimensions of regionalism in Asia have emerged and our future is linked with it.

TARIQ MAHMOOD KHAN,

Faisalabad, October 25.