- The future of Asia
PM Abbasi was spot on, at the Council of Heads of Governments of SCO in Sochi, that politics should be kept well away from regional economic development and connectivity projects. Surely he was referring to India, without naming any names of course, and its ‘designs’ against CPEC, etc. But all this is standard Pakistani rhetoric at all such functions. The Indians have their own set of talking points and, sure enough, they spelt them out very clearly when they took the floor.
But the SCO is not a usual organisation; at least not like other regional groupings. With China and Russia at its core, it was made primarily to overcome the paralysis gripping the region and take progressive and productive steps forward. Indeed, in the years that the SCO has grown – adding, eventually, Pakistan and India as well – so, too, has the influence of these two countries, who now call the shots in the long arc between Eurasia, Middle East and Central Africa. SCO leaders, who must have agreed with PM Abbasi’s take on politics and progress, would no doubt like new members to walk the talk in addition to making fancy statements.
Already, politics between Pakistan and India has destroyed initiatives, like SAARC, aimed at enhancing trade and commerce. Also, while we talk about overcoming barriers, we fail to move forward on some of the issues restricting trade in our own region. And while other countries have been busy forging workable alliances, we have had our heads stuck in the past. Perhaps the Pakistani contingent didn’t notice Shushma Swaraj, Indian external affairs minister, jetting off to Thran from Sochi just ahead of the formal opening of the Chahbahar Port. It will now operationalise a strategic transit route between India, Afghanistan and Iran, completely circumventing Pakistan. Meanwhile we let politics disrupt commerce inside our country as well. Perhaps the PM should try acting on his own advice and implement his vision for the region on Pakistan first.