Emerging World Order and Opportunities for Pakistan

The world order today is in a state of disrepair and therefore one would talk about the world disorder rather than the world order. In the post-Second World War period, the UN along with the bipolar politics were seen as the defining features of the world order. In the aftermath of the Cold War, the U.S. was the indispensable nation in the international order, and still is in so many ways. After 9/11, the UN seems to have taken a back seat in regard to some critical peace and security issues and a multipolar power configuration is emerging, somewhat similar to the Concert of Europe of the 19th century. 

A new Cold War has begun. A “grey zone” between war and peace will continue at the global level. Despite their acute differences, the U.S., China and Russia will compete and cooperate to avert an outright confrontation. Too much is at stake – trade, investment and shared technologies, modern lifestyles, among others. If China has its way, it would counsel avoidance of the so-called Thucydides Trap whereby the rise of a new power should inevitably lead to a conflict with the existing power. Besides, there are other limitations imposed by the lethality of the nuclear and autonomous weapons, as well as international issues such as climate change, non-proliferation, and violent extremism, which cannot be addressed without a modicum of cooperation amongst main players.


We are living in a volatile strategic environment. The stress in international relations comes mainly from the rise of China, an assertive posture of Russia, and an upsurge of the emerging nations. The incontestable U.S. strategic pre-eminence is being challenged, and a new phase of great power competition has started not only directly between the U.S., China, and Russia, but also in the areas which used to be considered the exclusive spheres of influence of the Western countries across Europe, Africa and Asia.

 

This is accompanied by speedy modernization of the military forces of both China and Russia. What is worrying for the U.S. is that China may be willing to flex its military muscles to protect its sovereignty claims in East Asia and try to push the U.S. to the south of the Asia-Pacific region; and Russia is consolidating its political or military gains in Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East. 
These circumstances have led to a visible anxiety in the West. Instead of exuding confidence and self-assurance, the U.S. is talking about walls and tariffs and America First; and there is a rise of xenophobia and ethnic nationalism in Europe. Champions of free trade are tempted to promote protectionism. This is reminiscent of the height of the Cold War when the Soviet Union was erecting walls and barriers and the West was tearing them down. 


There are strains within the U.S.-led alliances. President Trump, for instance, has criticized European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for not making adequate contribution to their own security and collective defence, even as the U.S. increased funding for the European Reassurance Initiative. The fissures within the North Atlantic family widened as the U.S. retracted from the Iran nuclear deal. In any case, the European Union in the coming years will be relatively inward-looking as it grapples with the problems of economic uncertainty, political upheavals led by nationalists, migration and terrorism. 


A new Cold War has begun. A “grey zone” between war and peace will continue at the global level. Despite their acute differences, the U.S., China and Russia will compete and cooperate to avert an outright confrontation. Too much is at stake – trade, investment and shared technologies, modern lifestyles, among others. If China has its way, it would counsel avoidance of the so-called Thucydides Trap whereby the rise of a new power should inevitably lead to a conflict with the existing power. Besides, there are other limitations imposed by the lethality of the nuclear and autonomous weapons, as well as international issues such as climate change, non-proliferation, and violent extremism, which cannot be addressed without a modicum of cooperation amongst main players. 
Though a major war will be avoided, its risk exists in many parts of the developing world, where civil strife within states, urban warfare and low intensity but bloody conflicts between states will continue to rage with the assistance of external proxies. 


The concept, doctrines and technologies of war are changing. As the rising middle classes around the world lose passion for organized violence, the wars would be local and localized rather than global. With the advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), nuclear arsenals are being supplemented by drones, military robotics and other lethal autonomous weapon systems. The doctrine of hybrid warfare will reduce the differences between military, diplomatic, political and economic modes for waging and winning wars. Asymmetric warfare will increasingly be the preferred method.


Against these developments, a gigantic wave of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forms the backdrop of the world’s geopolitics and geoeconomics. 
The intention is benign: to connect nations, regions and continents through transnational corridors to leverage economic geography in order to develop infrastructure, energy and industry. Who would say no to such connectivity? And yet the U.S. feels China’s economic expansion at this scale means tremendous increase in Beijing’s political influence at Washington’s expense and Washington’s own likely gradual displacement from the world order. Many of the United States’ European allies do not agree. They are not only participants in the BRI but are keen to act as its cheerleaders. The Prime Minister of France Emmanuel Macron is one of them. The BRI would continue to remain a point of contention, even as its success across continents is assured. 


The U.S. will continue to be a great power for decades to come whose decisions will be critical in shaping the world order and influencing innovation and development of cutting edge technologies. 
India, Germany, Japan and Brazil, the four contenders for the permanent seats in the Security Council, already have a place at centre stage. What is not fully appreciated is that countries like Italy, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia – which oppose permanent seats – are also gaining political and economic clout and will be pivotal actors in the world order between now and 2050 and even beyond. 


As the most voracious buyer of arms and ammunition, India has become one of the top five defence spenders after the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia and Russia disbursing USD 52.5 billion in 2017. It is evident that in the emerging world scenario, India, playing on the fears of the West, will be a disruptive power instead of constructive in relation to its military, diplomacy and economy as far as Pakistan’s interests are concerned. 

No matter from which angle you look at Pakistan, it is at the centre of great power competition because of Pakistan-U.S. relations, Pakistan-China relations, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the overarching framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Afghanistan, Pakistan’s nuclear capability, the issue of Kashmir, and Pakistan’s turbulent relations with India. Pakistan does not have the luxury to live in isolation.


Civil wars and internecine strife will continue to convulse many parts of the Middle East and Africa and it will be a long time before the Arab and the Islamic world would find a semblance of cohesiveness in their ranks. Ongoing and new conflicts will continue to bleed them until the Middle Eastern political systems are redesigned because the status quo, dating back to the last century, does not seem to be surviving. The Arab Spring has not died down but is unfolding slowly for its full manifestation and maturation in different parts of the Arab world and North Africa. 
Authoritarianism in national and international politics will be tolerated and even promoted on ideological, nationalistic and pragmatic grounds. 


The redeeming features of the emerging world order are a determined drive towards alleviation of poverty, sustainable development and responsible policies on environment. Economic initiatives will usher in a new era of global prosperity, income equality, gender parity, and expansion of education. 


Now let’s look at the challenges and opportunities for Pakistan.
No matter from which angle you look at Pakistan, it is at the center of great power competition because of Pakistan-U.S. relations, Pakistan-China relations, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the overarching framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Afghanistan, Pakistan’s nuclear capability, the issue of Kashmir, and Pakistan’s turbulent relations with India. Pakistan does not have the luxury to live in isolation. 


First and foremost, Pakistan must consciously rediscover its ideological moorings and only then it can be guided by its real compass and head towards the real North. Paying lip service to the ideology will not do. Turning a geographical space into a state was not the purpose back then in 1947; and not now if Pakistan wants to achieve the heights for which it is destined. A sense of our ideological orientation will infuse clarity and energy in our national efforts.


Our contemporary world is no more entirely state-centric in the Westphalian sense. Smartphones, new technologies and new media are transforming our lives, and emerging global citizenry is influencing decision-making at the national and even at local levels. 


As we prepare for the future, I am reminded of Khalil Gibran’s verses in which he warns, “Your children are not your children.... You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams...” Thus, the stakeholders and decision-makers should be extraordinarily alert as they plan for a fast evolving world – technologically, socially and politically. 


While the U.S. has suspended military assistance to Pakistan and steered a move to “grey-list” Pakistan in the Financial Action Task Force, let’s keep our head and respond only in a prudent way, while exercising measured reciprocity. Strategic restraint is in the interest of Pakistan. And despite the turbulence in the relationship and while negotiating with the U.S. on the thornier issues of the war on terrorism, Pakistan should continue to demonstrate faith in its ties with the U.S. and seek opportunities for modernization of Pakistan’s economy through access to technology and entrepreneurship, as well as development of the full potential of a U.S.-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor. 


Pakistan is doing well in strengthening its ties with its trusted ally China; and exploring new avenues of cooperation with Russia. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is now the bedrock of Sino-Pak ties, but let’s not forget China-Pakistan military corridor – though not described as such – is now the centerpiece of Pakistan’s defence in terms of training, technology and trade. 


Relations with Russia need to be upgraded beyond rapprochement and beyond seeking endorsement of CASA-1000, TAPI, and limited arms sales. The prospects for such a breakthrough, including in the realms of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and counter-terrorism, are there. By cultivating closer relations with China and Russia, while trying to maintain its ties with the U.S. and other Western countries, Pakistan would be walking a tight, triangular tightrope. The real challenge for Pakistan is to offer clear advantages and profits to each of the players in having strong bonds with Pakistan. Mutuality of interests should replace the mindset of dependence. 


CPEC, the game changer for Pakistan and the region, needs to be salvaged from the vile insinuations of propagandists who fuel rumours that Pakistan is being colonized and that it is incurring debts that it won’t be able to pay off. Pakistan has to give strong signals that it is sovereign, solvent and fully capable of sustaining this win-win partnership. Pakistan is rightly brushing aside India’s objections and pressing ahead with the implementation of the CPEC. It is also a historic opportunity for Pakistan to explore its own economic corridors to West Asia through Iran and Turkey and to Africa through the Gulf and the Arabian Sea.


Pakistan should continue to adopt an astute policy towards the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries and try to calibrate and balance its periodic tilts towards regional powers. 
There is no magic wand to repair relations with India and therefore it would be prudent to opt for a policy of damage limitation and focus on constant refinement of defence capabilities and development of economic edge, without which Pakistan will remain vulnerable. 


Afghanistan will remain unstable for years to come. The deeper India becomes involved, the more complicated the situation will become and the more elusive a peace process would be; because India’s purpose is not to find peace and stability but to use ingress into Afghan soil to punish Pakistan. Still, Pakistan should take the moral high ground and continue to make efforts for a peaceful settlement, even if they are not successful in the short term. The Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) is a step in the right direction showing Pakistan’s perseverance in regard to peace. 


In regard to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, we should adopt a proactive policy and ask boldly for what is Pakistan’s right, with no caveats and qualifications. Our posture should never be self-doubting and defensive. 


The Kashmiris should be put at the centre of the diplomatic outreach and we should not pin hopes on the currency of bilateral engagement which has produced no results in the past three decades. Our interlocutors should be the United Nations and the international community. It is a long haul but we should be there in the world forums which are hamstrung by, what I call, transactional and mercantile diplomacy of the Western countries who prefer lucrative economic and trade agreements with India to pronouncing themselves on the horrendous human rights situation in Kashmir. Kashmiris are giving blood for their freedom and for Pakistan; we should contribute to their struggle with words and steadfast diplomatic and political support. 


Economy will be either Pakistan’s Achilles heel or, alternatively, a propellant force. With the kind of ambition that Pakistan has as the seventh nuclear weapon state, we need to have a robust economy. True, Pakistan’s economy is recovering from an unfavourable economic environment and has already gone through several phases of structural reform; but now what it needs is a major economic renaissance to reach its goals as a state by 2030 and 2050. CPEC, we must remember, is a huge catalyst and not a substitute for Pakistan’s entire economy, which should be much, much bigger. The growth rate forecast at 5 to 6 % and above in the next five years, along with Pakistan’s growing middle class and large population, should attract non-CPEC foreign direct investment. The projected demographic dividend, because of the youth bulge, will turn into a demographic deficit if we do not make critical investments in human capital and human resource development through education, research and data generation. As Pakistan becomes a regional economic powerhouse, it must pay attention to its manufacturing and services sectors and rapidly upgrade its corporate competencies. Economic development should be Pakistan’s strategic prism; and along with human development the ultimate crucible for its viability and redemption. 


I foresee headwinds for Pakistan, but also a silver lining because of its strategic location and its talented people. Let’s build dykes and beachheads to safeguard this great nation against disasters; and provide it with the platforms from where it can take off to become one of the top ten nations of the world. For that, Pakistan will need a globalist vision, a confident persona and ingenuity to attain its designated goals.


The writer is President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and a former Ambassador to the United Nations (in both New York and Geneva) and China. 

Comments



Note: No comments!


Leave a Reply

Success/Error Message Goes Here
Note: Please login your account and then leave comment!
TOP