The one-day 8th D-8 Summit held at Islamabad on Thursday came out with an impressive agenda that could broadly be called an outline of ‘joint economic cooperation’ among the member states to give a boost to their economies and raise the standard of living of their people. The underlying idea, no doubt evident, was that economic strength was pivotal to genuine political independence and an honourable existence in the comity of nations. The leaders of member countries – Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey – set a target of intra-D-8 trade volume of $500 billion by 2018; there was no mention of the present level of trade to know the extent of the gap to be bridged. Nevertheless, considering the resources these countries possess, it is possible provided the agenda is pursued with sincerity and dedication. The Foreign Ministers of these countries signed, in the presence of their leaders, a document envisaging the achievement of $500 billion trade target.

However, the downside of such multilateral organisations, with a few exceptions, is that the enthusiastic gestures one sees the leaders making while sitting together, somehow, fizzle out, to be dug up for a repeat when they assemble again at the next scheduled summit. One would sincerely hope that this time around the D-8, incidentally comprising Muslim states only, lives up to its declarations, especially as Muslim countries are faced with challenges of no ordinary nature. These challenges can all, including the extremist phenomenon, be, perhaps, pinned down to their poor, or skewed, economic growth that stems from a pervasive indifference to the development of their immense manpower and lack of appreciation to provide them quality education so that they could exploit the nations’ natural resources.

The roadmap the leaders set before themselves to have flourishing economies is cooperation among their countries in multifarious fields to make it easier for them to get past the goal. It envisages increase in trade among their countries through liberalisation and closer cooperation between private sectors; free flow of goods by operationalising the preferential trade agreement that six out of eight members have already ratified; encouraging Islamic banking; transfer of technology; and study of modern disciplines. There was particular stress on energy security, including nuclear, renewable and alternative sources of energy, to pave the way for progress and prosperity; the specific mention of ‘development and production of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes’ affirms, it seems, the legitimacy of the Iranian programme geared towards that purpose. Similarly, the reference to the consequences of ‘coercive economic measures on the people’s livelihood’ was suggestive of criticism of sanctions against Tehran. The energy question was considered so important by Pakistan, and rightly so, in the context overall development that it volunteered to host the first energy forum to evolve a framework of cooperation. Iranian President Mehmoud Ahmadinejad at a press conference indicated that his country would supply 1,000MW of power to Pakistan and that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline projects would be completed by 2014.

Other areas of cooperation listed were food security, cooperation to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and counter the extremist phenomenon. There are now clear guidelines in the form of D-8 Islamabad Declaration, D-8 Charter and D-8 Global Vision – all three adopted – before these countries to follow. One would very much wish and hope they seriously strive to realise the goals contained in these declarations.