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For a couple of early years of Pakistan’s and India’s independence, the disparity in terms of border security, notably, the defense budget and war machinery and economic security was 1:4. The mid-1990s witnessed an exponential growth in India’s national security capabilities and economic growth.

As per 2020 figures, India’s GDP stood at US$ 2,709 billion vs Pakistan’s US$ 263 billion. This makes India’s economy 10 times larger than Pakistan’s. More or less, the same holds true for India’s border security. In the years to come, this gap will widen in India’s favour. In the next three years, India’s economy is projected to become world’s third largest economy.

More importantly, democracy, institutional independence and their strict adherence to function within their domains have flourished and strengthened in India. Never ever has there been any intervention or foreign influence to bring about a regime change in India. The same, however, does not hold true for Pakistan.

On the strength of all the above stated parameters, India’s foreign outlook and diplomacy is far more independent than its neighbours’. The recent happenings emerging out of the Russia-Ukraine war bring forth the strengths and weaknesses of many nations.

In May this year, India imported from Russia 819,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), from 277,000 bpd in April and 33,000 bpd a year ago. Russia is now the second largest supplier of oil to India, replacing Saudi Arabia, while Iraq continues to be the largest.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the United States and its allies have leaned towards countries to not buy or reduce their buying of Russian oil in a bid to punish Moscow for its aggression. Indian oil refiners have done the opposite, snapping up more Russian crude while the Indian government explores ways to protect domestic oil firms from punishment should they fall foul of sanctions.

While the Indian government values good relations with Washington and the West, its officials say ‘domestic needs come first’ and argue that Moscow has been a better friend of New Delhi than the Washington in energy cooperation. Last month, India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar posed the question at a conference: “Why are Indian money and funds coming from India seen as funding the war [in Ukraine], when Europe also buys gas from Russia?”

European countries and the US have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24. While New Delhi has called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, it has not explicitly condemned the invasion, which Russia says is a “special military operation”. US President Joe Biden looked the other way and brushed aside Indian energy policy and statement on Ukraine by describing India’s energy policy response to the Ukraine crisis as “somewhat shaky” with no threat of sanctions on India.

While Western companies’ attempts to build nuclear power plants in India have stumbled, two Russian-built reactors have been in commercial operation in Kudankulam, southern India, since 2014 and 2017.

Construction on two more started in 2017 and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in 2018 to build six more.

On the other hand, the US has offered to sell more defence equipment and oil to India, and New Delhi joined a US-led trade partnership Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity. India is a member of the Quad alliance, which links it with the US, Japan and Australia. India also signed a free trade agreement with Australia, talks for which initially began in 2011. India appears to also have had its way in China-sponsored Brics by keeping Pakistan out of the sideline meetings in the recent Brics event held in Beijing.

Pakistan has for long been trying to counter the Indian hegemony in the region and rightly so, for its very survival. India’s growing economic and defense strength and diplomatic influence are all red flags for Pakistan to stay out of India’s hegemony.

The tragic part is that this bigger picture and threat are nowhere the level of the focus that it deserves of any of the stakeholders in Pakistan. They are all embroiled in meaningless internal politics, personal vendettas, experimentation with constitutional construct and big power appeasement to collect the much-needed dollars to keep the economy afloat. What a fall!

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Farhat Ali

The writer is a former President, Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Comments

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Dabeer Razvi Jul 16, 2022 11:59am
We should concentrate on Industrialization, Export oriented industry. Import substitution, rather than import of goods and services. We should try to stand on our feet. Stop smuggling, Stop commissions/Corruption. No interference in Regime Change. Free and Fair Elections. Reduce non development expense. Inculcate Honesty and Integrity to groom our Population. Speedy and Fair Justice.
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Abdullah Jul 16, 2022 06:09pm
Indeed. There is less focus on growing the economy and more focus on how the economic rents of the economy shall be split up. We have to put an end to our uncompetitive ways of living.
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