They are calling it the Asian Century. With China and India poised to take back the centre stage of world economy in less than two decades, the winds of change in the region have already long begun – and Pakistan has missed the boat.
True, there are conflicts within and borders rifts. But also true is the realisation that regionalism is the only way forward. Despite all the regional tensions, TUTAP, TAPI, IPI, and CASA 100 have begun on the west of Pakistan. On the east Pak-India energy trade and an array of deals between India-Sri Lanka, India,-Bangladesh, Nepal-India and Mynmar-India are under consideration. Then there is mother of all regionalism ventures: the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under Chinas One Belt One Road project.
In other words, interdependence for trade of goods and services will keep the region upbeat in the next few decades. Though admittedly, an increasing competition for water and other natural resources may keep the relationship rather hot-and-cold until (hopefully) the stakeholders realise that gun toting competition for resources is wasteful and that cooperation is the only way forward, given that the lives of billions living in the region is at stake.
Like or not, sooner or later, the region will have to open up. And Pakistan is no exception given its location that offers land link from China and India to Central Asia to Europe, and its access to sea for Afghanistan, Western China and Central Asia.
To ensure survival when the flood gates open, Pakistani business and political leaders as well as the civil society at large need to get their act together, and fast.
Pakistani businesses need to realize that the rise of globalised young middle class consumers in the country means there will be less and less number of people who are willing to pay for their inefficiencies. Globalization is not just for businesses, but also for consumers, which means the business culture of protection and patronage will have to go. This is not the verdict of how things ought to be, but how things are and will be. Too bad, there is no escaping from it.
Pakistani politicians on the other hand must understand that mere sloganeering of economic stability won cut it anymore; nor would the mantra of democracy-first. The PML-N in the centre and others in the provinces must realize that they are ruling over a crucial time in Pakistans history.
History will not judge them well if electricity shortage, corruption, access to finance, complicated taxation and bureaucratic hurdles, transparency, rule of law and other important knots in the countrys socio-economic fabric are not resolved. No dynasty lasts forever, is a maxim known since the days of Ibn-e-Khaldon. The meta-structures of economic development, globalization, and open media have already changed, and its won be long before the last of the cogs – class conflict bred by inequalities – moves and shakes up the whole system.
As for the society at large, best not to wait for the governments to deliver; its about time to knock on the governments doors and get the rights, albeit with peaceful means. Change is not given from sky like as if is monsalwa; change has to be brought within and demanded without. The hand that it is in is yours.