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KARACHI: “Control of transport, trade and ocean lanes is the new mantra of our times and Pakistan’s geography is turning it into a front-line state for economic thrust. A corridor state needs to have good and cordial relations with all its neighbours. So take out your India-centric lenses and put in your global-centric lenses,” said Prof Dr Huma Baqai, associate dean at Institute of Business Administration. She was speaking at a seminar on ‘71 years of Pakistan — achievements and challenges’ organised by Rabita Forum International at a hotel on Saturday.

“We remain continuously optimistic about Pakistan because our hopes have been let down so much that we are actually afraid to hope for great things for our country hence another dream is shattered,” she said. She added that after years of cold war, post cold war and 9/11, there is a world order in crisis or it is a world without global leaders.

“In this new world, China is slowly lifting its head. Russia, too, is waking up. And people are thinking of them as the new global leaders of the future. And we are already seeing that wherever US President Trump backs out of an important agreement, China steps in. China is filling the void. And now China is in the process of building and developing the first of several economic corridors in which Pakistan is playing a big part,” she said.

Dr Tanweer Khalid, a professor of Preston University, said that security, independence and corporation was Pakistan’s initial policy. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, too, wanted Pakistan to have good relations with its neighbours. But due to unprincipled self interest Mountbatten messed up the Partition of India. “India insists that Kashmir is its integral part. That is also why bilateral talks and international mediation on the matter could not bear any results. Meanwhile, Pakistan lost East Pakistan but the India-occupied Kashmir remained,” she said.

“Pakistan started looking for allies. It developed friendly relations with China, which was frowned upon by the USA and it in turn started helping India. Due to its ideology, Pakistan also had close ties with the Islamic world especially Saudi Arabia. Iranian influence is also visible in Pakistan’s language and culture,” she said.

Concentrating on the recent developments within Pakistan rather than what is going on outside, Dr Mahboob Hussain Muqaddam of the department of political science at the University of Karachi said that there has been talk of rigging in the recent elections but it has also been good to see idols being brought down and the youth as well as the middle-class coming forward in the country’s politics. “We have carried out an experiment in social democracy, we have also carried out an experiment in Islamic democracy and sustainable democracy, and we are now experimenting with acceptable democracy by accepting the results of the elections and taking the debate to the parliament. We only need to turn this into a real democracy,” he said.

Ambassador Najmuddin Shaikh presiding over the session then said that it is time to see what policies, especially foreign policy ‘Naya Pakistan’ will be adopting. “We need to go to the IMF. We are certainly committed to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Asad Umar has made it clear that there will be transparency there. We also need to work more in the area of private sector enterprises,” he said.

He also pointed out that all countries on the east of Pakistan should be able to send trucks to other countries for trade through Pakistan. “India should also think again about its saying that Pakistan should have no say on the issue of Kashmir and about the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration as both countries should sit together and decide on Kashmir,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2018