Making friends in the new world order

Published: September 23, 2010

Pakistan needs to make a decision about its future sooner rather than later.

“We need to accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles”

(Statement of Principles, Project for the New American Century, June 3rd, 1997)

While reading this statement, one inevitably notices the emphasis on the word “our.” Besides, when the US President says “God Bless America”, one wonders, “Ok, God Bless America…but what about the rest of us?”

These are the questions that arise in the minds of Pakistanis and these are the concerns that Hillary Clinton attempted to address (quite unsuccessfully) in her recent charity trip to Pakistan.

Today, America stands at crossroads and so does Pakistan. In these perilous times of change, Pakistan needs to re-assess its loyalties and determine a long term national policy, independent of the influences of Washington. There are many reasons to believe that it is high time for policy makers in Pakistan to act.

The world is changing

Three years ago, an editorial of the New York Times hinted towards the “emergence of a multi-polar world” where China will take the centre stage. A year later, in November 2008, a report of the US National Intelligence Council titled ‘Global Trends 2025’ was published.

While declaring the advent of a “global multi-polar system” as one of world’s relative certainties, this report stated that “by 2025 a single ‘international community’ composed of nation-states will no longer exist.

Power will be more dispersed with the newer players bringing new rules of the game while risks will increase that the traditional Western alliances will weaken.” This dramatic change would occur, according to the report, as “the unprecedented shift in relative wealth and economic power roughly from West to East now under way will continue.”

Perhaps it makes quite good sense that this imminence of an overturning of the world order is a much more tangible and scarier threat to the US than the ubiquitous terrorism!

American leadership in a multi-polar world

Today, America stands at a point in its history where the biggest challenge faced by the US establishment is to retain what they call “American global leadership.” As political events in the world unfold, it seems that the US policy makers and the establishment are facing a tough time making things go as planned. International political actors have started taking increasing liberty while making decisions and the script from Washington is fast becoming obsolete.

The most important countries for the future

According to most estimates, China is projected to take over the US as the largest economy in the world in the next 15 years. The rise of China will be unique and sensational, a drama whose script is not written in Washington DC. This will be the onset of an Asian-centered world order.

To add to America’s distress, besides China, new players with independent foreign policies are also emerging. According to a recent report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, titled ‘The World in 2050,’ what they have called the ‘E7’ emerging economies, namely China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico and Russia, are on their way to become 50 per cent larger than the current G7 economies by the year 2050. What is implicit in this projection is a turning of the “world order,” upside down.

More alarming for the Western powers is the fact that these emerging powers have already started exercising their independent political wills. Turkey is consolidating itself to play a role in Middle Eastern politics, especially vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the other hand, Brazil, a Security Council member, which has grown to become the eighth largest economy in the world, is also asserting its increasing economic power through independent policy measures.  The Turkey-Iran-Brazil nuclear agreement is being touted as a failure for US policy makers and their recent, rather embarrassing sanctions on Iran. The US seems to be overwhelmed with the new challenges confronting it. Besides, the US policy vis-à-vis Iran is also showing signs of impotency.

What happens to Pakistan

While the US struggles with its conscience and its overstretched wars, Pakistan, its ally in the war on terrorism, stands at a most troublesome point in the history of its existence. Being labelled as ‘Jihadistan’ by international media and marred by its internal turmoil, Pakistan needs to make a decision about its future sooner rather than later. Pakistan stands at the centre of International politics at the moment and it needs to act, contrary to its history, in its true ‘national interest.’ This is important because amongst the other six emerging powers of the new century, there is Pakistan’s traditional foe, India.

With its high-tech sector growing at a phenomenal rate, India is emerging as an economic and political heavyweight.  According to The US National Intelligence Council, India is projected to be the world’s fourth largest economy by 2025. Besides being a matter of shame for Pakistan, it is a caveat for the Pakistani government to act in a timely manner. India has invested over a billion dollars in Afghanistan. Indian lobbies in Capitol Hill are pursuing her interests aggressively. And since the Americans are aware of India’s prospective status in the years to come, they bow towards Indians without any reluctance. The recent visit of Hillary Clinton and the hastily signed Pak-Afghan transit agreement, followed by David Cameron’s point scoring trip to India are testament to the mounting Indian pressure.

Time to step up to the plate

This entire scenario of changing dynamics in international politics and the emergence of a multi-polar world only points to one conclusion with respect to the future of Pakistan. The most pressing need of the hour is a long term national policy. The running of the state on a day-to-day basis has brought Pakistan on the brink of collapse, with the present government only interested in petty maneuvers to hide their incompetence and somehow cling to power. For a country like Pakistan, which is clinging to the wrong boat in risky waters, it is high time to judge the direction of the current and come up with a coherent long term national policy for the coming decades.

What lacks in the power circles of the Pakistani government is the initiative to re-orient themselves towards those who can be trusted for the long term. The good news is that the emerging powers (minus India) have always had cordial relations with Pakistan. It is high time that Pakistan stops cleaning the mess created by the US and pays attention to its own national interest while being aware, at the same time, of the direction in which the winds of change are blowing.


Talha Jalal

A graduate of Lahore University of Management Sciences who is currently working as a research assistant at the Development Policy Research Centre (DPRC) in Pakistan. He has previously written for the weekly The Friday Times. He is also currently associated with the Centre for International Media Ethics (CIME) as a researcher. Talha is based in Muscat and occasionally visits Lahore

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • faraz

    Like a typical pakistani, you didnt talk about Pakistan’s economy. Good relationship with Washington isnt a bad policy, the problem is the nature of our relationship. We have created a pseudo-security state which serves the narrrow interests of our political-military elite. In a world where policies are defined by economics and finance, we still think in terms of classic 19th century geopolitics. We should come out of this delusion of granduer that we will be rescued by global powers because we lie on a strategically vital area. The only way out is to create a welfare state, where economy is the main priority and the tools needed to build a modern economy include universal provision of education and health. We should let the people of Afghanistan decide their future, instead of glorifying “good taliban” who in our own territory suddenly become “bad taliban”. Our policy should include economic cooperation with all regional and global powers including India. Its foolish to avoid economic ties with a neighbour next door. We are under no external threats, all our problems are internal.Recommend

  • dawood

    Couln’t have said it better! I hope the people wake up because politicians/feudals/Army are not going to give up their gravy-train any time soon!Recommend

  • Nabiha Chauhdry

    What lacks in the power circles of the Pakistani government is the initiative to re-orient themselves towards those who can be trusted for the long term..

    Well written summary of the situation.
    As far as economy is concerned, again the national policy would encompass economic policy as well, but what the writer suggests if for the government and people to develop a long term strategy for the same instead of looking towards the world (read: USA) for short term loans and grants and aids which in the long term again makes our boat sink deeper down.

    As far as establishing trade ties with our rival neighbour is concerned, we may have entered a changed world order of international rivalries and friendships, yet what we can not ignore is the large public sentiment in Pakistan regarding the neighbour and the largely adverse effects unchecked/unregulated friendliness would have on Pakistani culture and future generations’ mind orientations.. So again, establishing over-friendliness with the neighbour to gain short term benefits would hurt us badly in the long term for other and more profound reasonsRecommend

  • Bunty

    Thank you for such a good analysis

  • faraz

    We get loans and aid for the mercenary work we do; its precisely because of our security oriented relationship with US that we earn short term benifits. All E7 emerging economies will only develop economic ties with us; nobody is goin to throw dollors at us to train jihadis to fight a cold war. Nobody is going to build defence relation with us; the entire concept of reorientation of foreign policy relies on economy. Only bilateral economic ties are long term; security oriented ties are always temporary, e.g end of cold war also ended the purpose of NATO but EU and US economies are permanently dependent on each other. Security oriented foreign policy towards E7 makes no sense at all.

    Public sentiment is not a barrier between Indo-pak trade ties. 80% population belongs to lower class who find it hard to make both ends meet. Middle class loves bollywood, only the elite depends on anti India rhetoric to secure resources in the name of national security. Media and internet knows no boundries, it has much more impact on culture than trade. Does our trade with China effect our culture? Just to secure few low grade weapons, we signed off a free trade aggreement with China which ruined our economy; thousands of local businesses were booted out by cheap Chinese products. Recommend

  • parvez

    What a brilliant article. I like the way you have clearly defined the issues and what should be done.
    Agree with @Faraz and @Dawood.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Pakistan has always had a Superpower to support it at crucial times. But, will US support Pakistan forever? No. It will not risk irritating India.

    Will China step up and fill US’s aid-giving shoes? Yes and No. China will not be as generous as US when it comes to aid to Pakistan. Reason: Because its right next door. Its so easy for any Pakistani general or a PM to hop across the border and talk about Pak-China friendship and get some aid in return and inturn milk the superpower next door. Thats precisely the reason China will be unwilling to be as generous to Pakistan as the US was.

    Also, China will never ask for democratic process to be in a good shape in Pakistan like the US does. So, the Pakistani generals will enjoy even greater power in the coming years. Its master will not care who heads the government.Recommend

  • Neeraj, India

    I don’t agree with the author. A mult-polar world is a distant dream. Even by 2050 the United States is likely to retain it’s sole super power status. According to one estimate, by 2050 Chinese economy would be of the size of around 42 trillion dollars, the US 34 trillion dollars and India 29 trillion dollars. But, these figures are deceptive. By 2050 the combined population of India and China is likely to cross 3 billion mark, whereas, the US population is estimated to be around 400 million. Therefore, the government of US would be far more richer than govt. of China or India. American treasury would be overflowing with huge surplus money to spend on defense, technological research, aid, investment etc., the key factors in attaining and retaining a super power status.
    Today, with an economy of 14.3 trillion dollars, the US spends around 800 billion dollars on defense which is more than that of the rest of the world’s combined defense spending! Just imagine what would be the size of American defense budget with an economy of 34 trillion dollars. Apart from this, the massive buying power of the US, provides it with enormous economic clout in the world.
    If we come to the geo-politics, then again the US is in an unbeatable position. Due to the China factor, India and Japan would be left with no other option but ally themselves with the Americans. The south east Asian tiger economies do also find comfort in the company of the US.
    The Europeans are no different, no matter how much they fret and fume at the US in private, life is just not imaginable to them without the reassuring presence of the cross Atlantic giant! Recommend

  • abida jillani

    You wrote this article very well, in fact the way you discribed the whole scenario is realy very impressive and trueRecommend