Friday, January 29, 2010

Creation of South-Central Asian Economic Bloc

Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan signed a joint statement recently in Islamabad. The statement is a good omen as all three countries have agreed not to interfere in each other's internal matters, and have expressed their resolve that neither country will let their respective territories to be used against each other.
Foreign ministers of the three countries released the joint statement at a press conference in Islamabad. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki, and the Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta further announced that the second trilateral summit would be held in Islamabad during the current year. In addition, meetings of interior ministers will be held in Islamabad, finance ministers in Kabul, and the intelligence chiefs in Teheran.

Joint Decision
The foreign ministers' conference also decided that the scope of the alliance would be expanded to another three neighboring countries and in this regard, foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan will meet in Tehran. The intellectuals say that everything sans geography of a country can be changed in the world. Similarly, every material blessing in the world can be purchased, but a neighbor is such a blessing that cannot be purchased. The geography of your country will continue to exist and you will have to accept your country's neighbor.
It has been Pakistan's bad luck that relations with its neighboring countries never improved. The Kashmir issue was waged with India in 1947; four wars were fought; one of them bifurcated the county, and one wing of Pakistan became Bangladesh. The Pashtunistan imbroglio with Afghanistan started in the same year, 1947. However, this issue has never led to any war. However, relations with Afghanistan remained cold until 1975. Then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto extended a hand of friendship toward Afghanistan (President Sardar Muhammad Daud). Sardar Daud and Bhutto had agreed to form an economic bloc for regional cooperation between the two countries. Both of them met the same fate they were killed.
After 1978, Afghanistan and Pakistan were trapped in a war that has been underway for the last 31 years. From 1978 until 1990, this was a war actually between the United States and former Soviet Union, but after 1990, it turned into a war of US occupation over Afghanistan. In this war, Pakistan was declared the frontline state and is being used as a "sand bag."
Until monarchy remained in vogue in Iran, the Shah (king Raza) ruled the country. The Iranian emperor was considered to be a US agent. Until then, good relations existed between Pakistan and Iran. The US interest in the region was that both the countries remain committed to peaceful coexistence and jointly abide by the US dictates.
In 1979, a revolution took place and democracy was established in Iran. It hurt the US interests and the United States started using neighboring countries including Pakistan against Iran. Washington united Iraq, Kuwait, and other Arab states in the world and manipulated a war against Iran that lasted for eight long years. The United States also created a rift in relations between Pakistan and Iran.
China is also our neighboring country. It is the only country in the world that has helped Pakistan against all odds. The United States repeatedly perpetrated terrorism in China and attempted to shift its blame on Pakistan.
Russia is also our neighboring country. During the Cold War era, a wrong decision by then Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan turned Pakistan into a US ally against the former Soviet Union. Then, the United States used Pakistani territory against the Soviet Union. The Russian leadership is still suspicious of Pakistan and does not trust the same.
Since 1999, Pakistan has been isolated on an international level. General (retired) Pervez Musharraf's regime is known as a period of frequent failures of Pakistan on the foreign policy front. Even during the period of the incumbent democratic government, no heed has been paid to Pakistani ministers on the international level, which means that Pakistan is still confronted with international isolation.

Painstaking Task
The only panacea to bring Pakistan out of international isolation is to improve its image and credibility on a regional level. The blemish of being a US ally on Pakistan must be removed. Pakistan's entity as an independent and sovereign country must be established. This is a very painstaking task. However, an alliance comprising of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan can make positive headway in this direction.
Until 2009, the Pakistani people used to complain that the United States was using the Afghan territory against their country. The people of Iran and Afghanistan also had the same complaint that the Untied States was using the Pakistani territory against the same.
A trilateral summit of these countries (Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan) was held in Teheran in 2009, in which the said issues discussed. The foreign ministers of all three countries, during their meeting in Islamabad, pledged that they would not allow any one to use their territories against each other.

Economic Development
The Afghan Parliament by rejecting the pro-US nominees for the new cabinet of President Hamid Karzai twice has proved that Afghanistan has wakened up. Similarly, in camera session in 2009, the Pakistani parliament also raised an effective voice against the US interference. Last week, the parliamentary committee on national security released a draft memorandum, in which flaws in the foreign policy were highlighted and a halt to the US steps against the territorial integrity and security of Pakistan was demanded.
The latest Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan trilateral statement is a good omen, as it recommends the inclusion of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan into the fold of regional cooperation. It is imperative that that this trilateral alliance is turned into a regional bloc involving China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan also. It will help isolate the duo of India and the United States, and prevent their hegemony from being established in the region. It would also usher in a new era of development in the region. China has emerged as a role model of economic development in the new century.

By adopting this model, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other neighboring countries can get rid of the West's hegemony and slavery and can also touch new heights of economic development. This is how the energy crisis in Pakistan can be overcome. It is time that the media, civil society, political parties and the Pakistani people consider to move forward "minus the United States" that is without relying on the US assistance. This sole option will guarantee the stability, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Pakistan's internal security.

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