There is a conventional belief that ‘military power determines political role of a state in international politics’. Is it true in this increasingly globalized multi-polar world? Can a state with massive military might but a dwindling economy sustain its existence in the comity of nations? Unfortunately or fortunately, the answer is no. Empirical evidence suggests that without sustained economic growth a state is vulnerable to a variety of crises. So, arguably this old belief could be replaced as ‘economic power determines political role of a state in international politics’. Nevertheless, given the nature of threat perception, a state can build up military muscle to meet security imperatives, but it can’t turn away its eyes from other facets of national power such as economy, education, health, energy etc.
Sadly, in South Asia – India and Pakistan – the trend of defining security in narrow military terms is continuing to the utter dismay of proponents of peace and stability. Moreover, upward trajectory both in conventional and non-conventional arms between India and Pakistan is largely going unchecked – and thus is a source of worry for the international community. New weaponry systems and doctrinal changes to employ them for strategic gains further exacerbate the worrisome security rivalry between both states. More or less, the common people on both sides are unaware of the consequences of this arms race and the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons. Ignorance on the part of public provides a free ride for the security decision-makers who furnish concocted scenarios to justify their policies.
Let’s dwell upon Pakistan’s economic conditions. Factually speaking it’s at the verge of collapse with all indicators showing woeful tendency. For the last few years, the abysmal state of affairs with regards to GDP growth rate, per capita income and foreign exchange reserves have brought unending problems in Pakistan. Sufficient and sustained funds are not available for education, health, energy and agricultural sectors. Notwithstanding, the country is facing an acute energy crisis; the government functionaries are handicapped to do anything because there is nothing left in the national treasury.
So, in this backdrop, Pakistan needs to revamp its collapsing economy and this is only possible if government takes some difficult decisions. If we look at Pakistan’s trade with regional neighboring states, it’s far less than compared to trade with extra-regional states. According to economic experts, Pakistan can achieve a buoyant economy through trade openings with regional states especially with India, so they argue that an MFN status to India should be extended sooner rather than later. There are likely chances that Iran-US rapprochement would ease economic sanctions on Iran, and Pakistan could exploit such a situation to best of its interests by completing IP gas pipeline.
With the smooth transition of power from one democratic government to another elected set up, Islamabad is showing some positive gestures. Political disposition of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif towards India, for instance, his utmost desire to normalize relations with India, ending of decades-long arms and opening up of trade and commerce between both the states could melt the ice in near future. Recent visits of India by different political leaders including PTI chairman Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would certainly have a positive bearing on the bilateral relationship. After returning from India, Imran Khan talked about the need of cooperation in civil nuclear technology between both the countries. He proposed that both should jointly construct a civil nuclear plant in an area near the border where scientists and engineers from both sides would work together for mutual benefits. Admittedly, it may be a distant dream given the nature of threat perception at both sides of the border but could be made practical if decision-makers show political sagacity and foresightedness. According to the joint communiqué between the Chief Ministers of Pakistani Punjab and Indian Punjab, for a better future there is a need for openness — students, interns, academics, intellectuals getting into the research institutes and universities of each Punjab. There is so much both can learn from each other’s experiences in the wider areas of agricultural research, from land and water management to dairy farming.
The bottom-line of the argument is: Pakistani policy circles need to open their perspective and must realize that contemporary world is not all about military power; in fact it’s about economy, science and commerce. An economically potent and prosperous Pakistan can certainly prove more important than merely a nuclear armed for its people as well as for the whole world.