Robust economic growth and development is generally attributed to economic interconnectivity between far-away states in the process of globalization. However, it is regional cooperation which is the real key to economic swiftness if the mandate is placed on facts and statistics. Global trade counts for only a fraction of total world trade. When two states from different continents enter into a trade, it costs hefty amounts of money on shipping and insurance. There is also the great threat of trade being affected by conflicts, pandemics, tsunamis and relations between various states; the ongoing negative ramifications of the Ukraine-Russia conflict being the prominent precedent. On the contrary, states can generate greater profits with minimum risk when they engage in trade with neighbouring states. Pakistan has to learn this as soon as possible.

A recent survey by a US state department suggested that the state should refrain from cross-Atlantic or cross pacific trade and keep regional trade as its top priority. The survey concluded that the members of the European Community and ASEAN got the most benefit from regional trade, while Africa and South Asia were the worst in terms of regional cooperation and hence economic development. This was also reflected in a recent article published in the Guardian in which lament was shown over Britain’s decision to Brexit. Britain is in an effort to reestablish ties with the EU. Pakistan has a lesson in all this.

The country has a history of aggravated ties with neighbours due to which a great amount of its revenue goes in vain on the expenditure of trade with the West which is accompanied by threats and intervention. The annual trade between Pakistan and India is a mere $2 billion as compared to $20 billion trade between US and Canada every day. Both countries are great markets and have immense mutual economic opportunities. Increased economic activity can also boost friendly relations which will help resolve issues concerning security and water resource distribution.

Iran is another lost opportunity for Pakistan. The country due to pressure from Saudi, the US and sectarian factions within has never strengthened ties with a country which was the first to accept it as an independent state. Iranian oil can be a great remedy to Pakistan’s fragile energy sector. In the case of Afghanistan, Pakistan has always suffered due to its patronage of a country which always responds negatively. Pakistan poured dollars into Afghanistan in August 2021 which is one of the prominent reasons for the current dollar flight and rupee devaluation. If the issue of refugees and border management is resolved among the states, the money wasted on ethnic, and sectarian cleavages can be saved.

Pakistan can also learn from Bangladesh which has travelled from $40 billion dollars to $139 billion in trade within a matter of two decades.

History bears witness to the bloodiest wars between nations in the last century which resulted in more deaths than any other wars in known history. But even rivals of WW1 and WW2 have cardinal relations. Japan has friendly relations with the US, the same goes for China which opened to the West leaving behind its ideological attachment to communism under Deng Xiaoping. This resulted in China and Japan having leading economies with China now locking horns with the US for global hegemony. Pakistan must also increase its economic activity with its neighbors which is the only prudent way to avoid falling into the lap of a block or holding bowl before IMF, Saudi or the West.

MUHAMMAD SHARIF OTHO,

Sindh.