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The current India-Pakistan standoff should be a wakeup call for everybody. We need to introspect why brotherly Muslim countries (mainly GCC) are not openly criticizing India on bullying Pakistan. Two decades back, in the Kargil fiasco or at the time of nuclear testing, the posture of Muslim world particularly, and world generally, was leaning towards Pakistan. Today, it is the exact opposite, as apart from China and Turkey, no one is standing by our side.
The question that we need to ask ourselves is that how we can change the perception. What went wrong in the last two decades which has weakened our position in the international arena? Why GCC which denounced India in 1998, is now siding with our arch rival today? The answer is hidden in economic linkages which are becoming first priority for richer countries.
Back in 1998, KSA was economically struggling, still the Kingdom gave free oil (80,000 barrels per day) for four years to Pakistan. After the oil boom in early 2000s, Saudi and other GCC countries became rich and their economic linkages with India deepened which has put the only nuclear power in the Muslim world at the backburner. Back in days, they looked upon Pakistan as strong allies because of our military strength. Today, perhaps India is their darling.
We need to adapt to modern world realities by strengthening our economic and markets linkages with the world. Since the inception of two countries in 1947, Pakistan was moving on a high growth path (5% plus) while India was pacing at relatively low growth rate (2-3%) till our neighbour started opening up the economy in the 1990s. Pakistan's economy was more open then and its linkages to world businesses were better than India's.
Today, the situation is totally different. India has been growing at higher rates for the past two decades while Pakistan is stuck in boom-bust cycles. At mass level, the socioeconomic realities of the two countries might not be different - such as poverty; but, being a bigger market, India has become important for countries that matter in the global landscape. On the other hand, Pakistan's share in the expanding global trade and markets is shrinking and nobody has much to lose economically from a weakening Pakistan.
India has a clout in the world. Indian human resource is well entrenched - Google, Microsoft and MasterCard CEOs are Indians, and in past, Pepsi CEO was an Indian woman. There are Indians who are deans at numerous Ivy league schools, and the list goes on. Such optics help improve the Indian brand in the world. How many Pakistani brains are movers and shakers?
Apart from that, Indian business conglomerates have global standing while no one from Pakistan comes close. India, being a larger country, whilst strong economic growth momentum, is a bigger market for MNCs, and because of that, it has a say in the world. That element is missing in Pakistan. Indian trade with the US, EU and even China is at much bigger magnitude than that of Pakistan.
All these economic factors matter; and that is why nobody in the world is ready to confront India in favour of Pakistan. We have to even fight against invitation to Indian Foreign Minister's presence in upcoming OIC. Till the time of writing, Pakistan Foreign Minister rightly so said that he will not go to OIC meeting over India's attendance at the meeting. That is a right message to be conveyed, and the Foreign Office's relentless efforts on diplomatic front in the last few days are commendable.
But that might not be enough. Pakistan cannot win any meaningful battle based on sheer military might, but it is the economic strength which can make us victorious. It is time for us to realize that our military's strong presence is undermined by our economic weaknesses. Yes, India is a bigger country and we cannot match on absolute levels in military, market size, human resource, investment and trade; but we have lagged behind significantly in proportion to our population.
It is time to do soul-searching, and rethink our strategy. The country can only become a true military might if it becomes a stronger economy.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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