Recently, the D-8 summit ended with the adoption of a historic 35-point Islamabad Declaration, which chalked out the way forward for enhancing economic cooperation between member states, their relationship with other regional blocs and its commitment to strive for an equitable international economic system where the developing countries have a say in determining the contours of a roadmap for sustainable development. It also adopted the D-8 Charter, an overarching legal instrument defining and regulating the organisation’s multifarious activities and its vision for the next two decades.

The most important point of the declaration is the reaffirmation of the commitment of member states to peace, democracy, progress, dialogue, solidarity, tolerance and moderation as the core values and foundation for achieving economic prosperity and well being of their people. One can hardly take issue with these stated objectives.

For the D-8 to be able to have an effective voice at the international level, it is imperative to ensure that all member states realise their economic potentials to nudge the process of sustained economic development and to put in place an effective framework of cooperation among them.

There are no two opinions about the fact that economic progress is inextricably linked to the system of governance that reflects the people’s aspirations, the level of solidarity among different segments of the society and a culture of tolerance and moderation that guarantees peace and harmony in the country. That, undoubtedly, can be achieved through the continuation and strengthening of the democratic process.

For any organisation to function successfully, its members have to be on the same wavelength. The D-8 member states, fortunately, are all democratic entities, which provide a strong basis for mutually beneficial collective efforts aimed at ensuring that they become a model for tolerance and moderation.

Perhaps, Pakistan needs this more than any other D-8 member. It is confronted with religious extremism that negates the concept of tolerance and moderation. Terrorism poses an existentialist threat to it. Therefore, the foremost effort of D-8 members should be to help Pakistan fight it and strengthen the democratic system.

Another thing that is noteworthy is the D-8 countries’ reiteration about the importance of consultation, coordination and joint efforts in economic and trade relations, as also their unswerving resolve to the realisation of a just and equitable international economic system based on the principle of sustainable and inclusive development that takes into account the profound impact of climate change. This reaffirmation actually reflects the objectives for which the D-8 has been established.

The developing countries have been badly affected by the economic hiccups at the international level. The new global trade and economic regime under the WTO, against the backdrop of the snowballing globalisation process, has also affected the third world and developing countries. The positions taken by the developed countries on  reductions in tariffs and farm subsidies jeopardise the economic interests of small nations. So the emergence of regional blocs and trade organisations in the third world are meant to protect the interests of developing countries by enhancing cooperation among member states,  collectively work on the basis of economic strength to get better deals at the international level and contribute to the emergence of an equitable international economic system. In this regard, cooperation with other regional entities has also been listed as a top priority, which can also add strength to the collective bargaining position vis-à-vis the developed countries.

The D-8 has already made a substantial headway by providing the necessary framework for expanding trade and economic cooperation between member states by concluding three very important agreements namely The Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), Agreement on Simplification of Visa Procedures for Businessmen and Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters.

The D-8 countries have a population of nearly one billion and an economy worth $2.4 trillion. These are very encouraging ingredients and indicate the great potential that exists in them not only to change the economic situations of their own people through  sustained economic growth, but also to play an effective role in removing barriers to the establishment of an equitable global economic system.

Countries, like Pakistan, which are increasingly dependent on export-led economic growth and in search of new destinations for their exports, can greatly benefit from being a proactive D-8 member. It is gratifying to note that there is a discernible change in the outlook and policy initiatives in this regard.

The philosophy of trade not aid adopted by  Pakistan’s government has already started paying dividends, as is evident from the recent arrangement agreed with the EU countries under the auspices of WTO for duty free access of Pakistani products to the European markets. The hosting of D-8 summit has, indeed, boosted the country’s economic profile and provided an excellent opportunity to the business community to interact with their counterparts from other member states.

During the meeting, some very useful and pertinent suggestions have been made to advance the D-8 objectives. President Asif Ali Zardari emphasised the need for the establishment of Trade and Development Bank. Iranian President Mehmoud Ahmadinejad proposed the setting up of a joint investment fund, while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threw his weight behind joint projects. All these proposals are of immense value and their implementation with sincerity of purpose and commitment  can act as a propeller for enhancing the economic prosperity of member states and warding off unpleasant foreign influences. It is hoped that they will ensure that the commitments made in the declaration and the vision given for the future are practically implemented. 

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: ashpak10@gmail.com