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From geo-politics to geo-economics

Nearly everybody wants to talk to the Taliban. Nearly everybody thinks Pakistan is the medium for talks. Nearly everybody feels the US’ entry and exit strategy in Afghanistan was faulty. This change of hearts and politics is recent. These very countries had been saying exactly the opposite for two decades. It was Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s lone voice for decades that predicted the folly of US foreign policy in Afghanistan. A folly that cost 2 trillion dollars, millions of lives and a generation lost. With reluctance, the world has accepted that Pakistan cannot be overruled or ruled by foreign forces. Pakistan has also shifted its focus. Rather than just depending on becoming a political hotspot, they are building their economic centrality.

Geography, economy and politics are all interwoven. Power politics is all about accumulation of power through wealth accumulation. The allocation of this wealth to expand empires, regions, industries or economies are all strategic policy decisions. Traditional methods of occupation are still popular. Wars in key countries help invaders of colonialism and imperialism to amass control over key resources. The Cold War has left behind a legacy. Some changes however have occurred over time. Wars for the sake of oil control in oil producing countries have given way to “nation development” strategy of America. Wars have to precede for this strategy to succeed. For nations to need development they have to first experience destruction: Iraq and Afghanistan are prime examples.

Military might, war economies, and technology development were the main tools of expansionism. The American concept of superpower meant defeating the then Soviet Union, dividing the Middle East and developing duopolistic global forums like G7, etc., to let 7 richest countries decide for 193 countries. Other countries either aligned with them or found themselves isolated. This model succeeded for almost half a century post-World Wars. Enter the dragon. China about four decades ago decided to have a differential policy. They call this forty years of reforms. Visionary leader Deng Xiaoping decided that China needed to focus on economic development. For business and trade to flourish peace and security are prerequisites. That is why China did not take part in conflict zones and wars. In the 90s and 21st century while the US was busy in wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, China was busy in trade enlargement through regional connectivity. This was the first shift of geo-politics to geo-economics.

Pakistan’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous country is dependent on this paradigm shift. With a focus on geo-economics Pakistan’s foreign policy, trade policy, investments, growth will all have to be aligned to this new code of political behaviour. The beginning is promising and the world is already noticing it. This change in its policy stand will lead to a change in its standing by:

1 From partner in war to partner in peace- Pakistan has traditionally played the geo-political game. Partnering with America in the two Afghan wars was a hugely costly mistake. The aid money for fighting the war in Afghanistan was hardly 20 billion dollars but we lost close to 150 billion dollars of economic development and 70,000 lives. Not only that we became the cheap labour hired for other peoples’ dirty work, politically we were unfortunately described as terror exporters. The greatest shift has been Pakistan’s emphatic “Absolutely Not” stand of the Prime Minister towards renting out bases to the US. These two words and actions are painful in the short run but have made the region and the world look at Pakistan with a different lens. A lens of disbelief, a lens of reluctant respect, and a lens of curiosity.

2 Balancing relationships- For Pakistan to be Geo-economically viable a balance in relationships with other countries is crucial. While China is our all-weather friend, seasonal friendships should be entertained as well. The rejuvenation of our relationship with Russia and Bangladesh is an excellent strategy. Despite American off handishness towards Pakistan, it is imperative that every effort at bringing US to the economic table should be made. This has been recently acknowledged by Andrew Korybko in an article on 23rd July 2021 “Indian experts are wondering why Delhi has been sidelined in Afghanistan. That is why”. He goes on to explain that there is a new Afghanistan-Pakistan axis and Central Asian Quad being formed that also includes Uzbekistan and the US. This has happened after the new vision was unveiled in the Islamabad Security Dialogue held in March. He further explains that the rail connectivity plan will create a target market of over 300 million consumers. A figure that US or many others would find hard to overlook.

3 Diversifying regional alliance- Pakistan has long been waiting for SAFTA to happen, for ECO to invigorate, to RCD to be reincarnated. While this may still happen, Pakistan needs to look out for other partners and alliances. With CPEC and the Central Asian Quad, Pakistan can attract other investing countries as both big powers (China and the US) are its trade development partners. This potentially means that smaller players like Iran, Bangladesh can be the countries wanting not to miss the boat. This also means that India may find itself as being an outlier. Similarly, the Middle East states can also be approached for blue economy alliances. Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Brunei are all looking for trade routes with larger markets. The Chinese model of

beating the superpower through trade is far more sustainable than the American model of occupying through wars. Pakistan is not as large as India in terms of market economy. Yet, Pakistan is a gateway, a partner, a channel and a bridge between the rising powers of Central and South Asia and the West. That can only happen if peace exists in Pakistan and in the region. That is why India has interests in the instability of the region. The problem for India is that by focusing on the win-lose paradigm of creating conflict to gain the upper hand India is now at the risk of narrowing its options in the new world order. Pakistan needs to go where it has not gone before. That means conversing and connecting with erstwhile forsaken markets. That is tough, risky and challenging. But as they say it is the untraveled road that makes you discover new destinations. That destination has to be the road to geo-economics.

Andleeb Abbas, "From geo-politics to geo-economics," Business Return. 2021-08-02.
Keywords: Economics , Economic growth , Economic zones , Economic activity , Economic conditions , Economic development , Sales tax , Stat Bank , Fedral Budget , Economic policy , Geo economics , Foreign policy , War economics , IMF , RCD , SAFTA

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