Pakistani nation at challenge for ECO Obligation 2025

Pakistani nation at challenge for ECO Obligation 2025
The Government of Pakistan entered into another international obligation through “Islamabad Declaration and Vision 2025” as conclusion of the 13th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), flag up doubling intra-regional trade in the next five years and promoting connectivity. The declaration calls for development of transport and communication infrastructure, facilitation of trade and investment, promotion of connectivity with other regions, welcomes international decade action for water, effective use of energy resources and undertaking measures for making the ECO effective and efficient. While, Vision 2025 underscores promotion of cooperation among member states.


ECO summit’s ending notes are being considered and showcased as a major success for Pakistan in the current geo-political scenario and the context of foreign policies, which perhaps showing a shift of global ties and national policies over the region concerned. But, it would not be wise to take country’s direction based on short-term approach or temporary mileage / ad-hoc agenda in hand, by undermining future dynamics and aspiration of the nation at large.


Pakistan has already served many global agendas by taking care of short-term interest of the rulers and the result of all such support ended up with difficult circumstances for Pakistan. The success of Islamabad Declaration is linked with many factors including the sustainable economy through reform of economic policies as well as stabilization of proxy war through articulated foreign policies.


Two decades ago, during the nineties (February 1997), Qarz Utao Mulk Sanwaro known as The National Debt Retirement Programme (NDRP) was launched to retire the country’s external debt. It was applauded a great package to the nation by the democratic government. The flag was carried forward by President Musharraf’s dictatorial regime and Pakistan ultimately succeeded to stop taking loans from IMF in year 2007. This was the period when President Musharraf also announced transitional phase for restoration of true democracy in Pakistan. 


The nation was in cheerful moments, but perhaps, it was misfortunate that the democrats could not sustain the IMF/loan pay-off, as well as the period was noticed with high degree of currency depreciation.


Post President Musharraf’s regime, i.e. democratic governance, depicted Pakistan economy under burden due to increased loan burden, includes both governance periods of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) as well as Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).


It is quite alarming scenario that the recent democratic governance period of highly acclaimed founder of NDR Programme has been observed with approximate 43% increase in loan amount pledged every citizen of Pakistan with a burden of PKR 120,000/-, and 37% of annual country’s income is being consumed towards payment of installments. It means Pakistan’s economic policies were based on short-term approach and failed to serve long-term needs thus not sustainable. The present government has not given any solid strategy to pay-off loan and stand on its own feet.


The huge national debt together with un-favorable policies for industrial and agricultural economy has rendered challenges to sustain the national economy and turn it into green one.  On one hand, Pakistan is under huge loan burden whereas proxy war has critical geo-political aspects on other side of the governance challenges prior to serve the obligations of ECO Vision 2025 which is being showcased as a big achievement and success at the moment.


While taking the notion of ECO Vision 2015 and comparing with early period of current government for its measures on foreign policies as well as performance on diplomatic fronts, one can conclude failure towards diplomatic alignment in the context of proxy war, as progress on Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline agreement could not be done due to some international as well as hidden ties playing role against the relationship of Pakistan and Iran. As space was available due to poor understanding on strategic aspects viz foreign policies of Pakistan, the period was observed with enhanced cooperation between India and Iran, concluded in the form of pact to develop the strategic Chabahar port, being considered a major breakthrough for India's trade with West Asia.


The infiltration of terror elements and border issues with Afghanistan are highly critical in the context of proxy war against Pakistan in the region and to meet the obligation of ECO Vision 2025. The missing of shipping containers and smuggling of weapons are also evident for such elements, and one should not forget that infiltration factor has a likelihood to further aggravate in the backdrop of Chahbahar Pact. It is million dollar question that how infiltration of proxy war elements would be restricted or managed during promotion of trade and transport in ECO member states?


Though the Islamabad Declaration has warm welcome to the recently adopted United Nations General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/71/222) on proclaiming International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development “2018-2028”, but, the severity of upcoming challenge on Kabul River’s riparian water issue should also not be overlooked in diplomatic agenda whereby the agricultural economy of Pakistan may also suffer, and this factor would also serve as a limiting factor towards progress.


The alternate theoretical perspective gives brighter prospects to the Islamabad Declaration by showing Pakistan stronger over a period of time, but many challenges to be overcome. This alternate theory can only work if sustainable, transparent and accountable economic and foreign policies be ensured by the Government of Pakistan. The economic policies should address the needs of industrial as well as agricultural segments while the foreign policies must have clarity on transboundary issues towards eastern and western borders.

Author: Kanwar Javaid Iqbal