- Area study centres need to give input on policy formulation
By Javed Iqbal
Maverick PPP leader and former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced populist politics during the 1960s and 1970s. Being a man of many talents and abilities, he was also an avid reader of choicest books and his library at 70 Clifton in Karachi was declared one of the best in Asia. ZA Bhutto dexterously used bookish knowledge, vast experience of international relations and deep understanding of the Western mind, for pursuing intricate foreign policy options. One of his foreign policy achievements was to involve the People’s Republic of China in the Subcontinent as an ‘extra area actor’ to counter the hegemonic India in favour of Pakistan.
Despite all these God-gifted talents and abilities, ZA Bhutto had failed to grasp the gravity of looming US odium over the indigenously designed nuclear programme and the USA delivered a final warning to him in 1976 through the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who threatened to make him a horrible example. The USA also ‘orchestrated’ the 1983 MRD movement by giving a message to Makhdoom Muhammad Zaman Talib-ul-Mola, during his visit to the State Department in Washington that America still supports democracy and is quite neutral in internal affairs of Pakistan.
Likewise, General Parvez Musharraf was ousted for double-crossing the USA in Afghanistan through a fierce lawyers’ movement.
Today, another popular Prime Minister, Imran Khan, is facing joint US, Indian and Afghan pressure over the multi-billion-dollar CPEC project, all alone. Pakistan has little options over this game-changer project, except to expedite the pace of work for reaping the economic gains in time. Different experts believe that a ripe CPEC project would, more and more, involve China in the internal economy of Pakistan because of its heavy investment and strategic interests herewith. It is expected that CPEC would transfigure Pakistan as an ‘Israel’ of China and this new prime position of strength would help counter India, Afghanistan and the USA.
The CPEC is a God-gifted project at a time when Pakistan appears alone. It’s time to bid farewell to the mantra of the Muslim world because Arab states have, openly, shown their proclivity for Narendra Modi’s India.
After ZA Bhutto’s unceremonious removal in 1977, Pakistan could not find a good international leader to espouse diplomacy based on the national interest. It is understandable that a nuclear-powered Muslim state, with the seventh largest Army in the world, can never be the darling of the West because memories of the Crusades are still alive in their minds. This hatred is deeply rooted in international politics in the shape of the US investment and support to Israel and India. Pakistan has no friends in the world except China and its 72 years history is riven with daunting challenges of stability, security and survival while the troika of India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are united in their anti-Pakistan tirade
Pakistan needs to motivate the Chinese government and companies to heavily invest through the CPEC platform. The growing Chinese presence will counter any enhanced Indian role in Afghanistan after a possible US withdrawal from there. Meanwhile, Chinese dependency on Pakistan will provide the necessary shield to Pakistan to equipoise Indo-US designs from a position of strength. To achieve this option, Pakistan is needed to take policy decisions including establishment of federal and provincial CPEC departments, so that it may not face any bureaucratic snafu and things could be processed on a fast-track basis.
The USA and other developed countries have designed specialised institutions in shape of think tanks to conduct research and help formulate policies. It is estimated that there are more than 7000 think tanks in 169 countries and the US is home to 1984 think tanks with approximately 400 located in Washington, DC, alone. Think tanks are, in fact, the intellectual entrepreneurs which play a vital role in policy studies and research.
Pakistan must also promote a paraphernalia of state-sponsored think tank institutions as well as universities’ area study centres for providing timely analyses to the government. These institutions should be tasked to conduct research for undertaking new policies and reforms. The ZA Bhutto government got started area study centres in different universities for studying the geo-strategy of neighbouring countries but such centres have played a rather quiescent role and there is a need to reinvent their responsibilities. Due to insufficient research opportunities, lack of direction and unavailability of the best researchers, the universities’ area study centres have failed to guide the government in the formulation of policies. The Pakistan Study Centre and Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of the Punjab are intellectually duds with no role in nation’s policy studies and research. It would be better if the dormant area study centres are handed over to the National Defence University, Islamabad, and the Command and Staff College, Quetta, for carrying out geostrategic research related to Pakistan’s vital strategic issues.
The Punjab government should also task the universities to conduct research about the usefulness or otherwise of its development programmes and policies. The universities should be linked with different departments through the Planning and Development Department of the Punjab Government for the conduct of research and innovation. It is very essential as the Punjab Information Technology Board has failed to introduce a manifest information technology revolution while India is leading the world in the field of IT.
After ZA Bhutto’s unceremonious removal in 1977, Pakistan could not find a good international leader to espouse diplomacy based on the national interest. It is understandable that a nuclear-powered Muslim state, with the seventh largest Army in the world, can never be the darling of the West because memories of the Crusades are still alive in their minds. This hatred is deeply rooted in international politics in the shape of the US investment and support to Israel and India. Pakistan has no friends in the world except China and its 72 years history is riven with daunting challenges of stability, security and survival while the troika of India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are united in their anti-Pakistan tirade.
A senior analyst, Mumtaz Malik, said that Pakistan should go ahead with the CPEC, irrespective of the USA’s concerns. The USA will not let us take any big step towards development. Its stand on CPEC is similar to that of India, a known enemy of Pakistan. The poor response of the Islamic world on Kashmir manifests our foreign policy’s failure and the world’s preference to commercial interests over principles. Former PU VC Dr Zafar Moeen Nasir said it’s the test of our leadership’s nerves. Having faced failures to date, we, in future, have to depute the best diplomats to succeed on the foreign front. A senior bureaucrat, on the condition of anonymity, said that neither the USA nor any other country has any right to interfere in our internal matters. The USA is worried about China’s expansion; so, we should engage the USA proactively, rather, having a reactionary approach. Pakistan should also construct big dams through the CPEC platform to gain tangible and meaningful results in the agriculture sector.
In this hostile situation, the best advice by ancient Chinese military strategist, writer and philosopher Sun Tzu for Pakistan is;
‘To know your enemy, you must become your enemy.’