Regional energy community

19 Oct, 2019


WINNING the peace can be harder than winning the war. In 1950, as Europe was struggling to remedy the ravages of the war that ended in 1945, French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, whose members would pool coal and steel production to ensure that historical enemies France and Germany would never go to war again. This led to the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and the European Union in 1991.

As peace in West Asia might be on the horizon, Pakistan should lead in setting aside the history of tensions, distrust, and hostilities, and make a unilateral declaration of its willingness to work towards forming a West Asian Energy (or just Gas and Electricity) Community. This task awaits a leader with vision. To lend some concreteness to the proposal a draft declaration, that follows the wording of the Schuman declaration quite closely — both to suggest that it has been done before and to allay the fears of those who may be alarmed by its implications — is placed below.

A draft declaration by Pakistan

Peace in the world today cannot be achieved without undertaking creative efforts proportionate to the unparalleled dangers which threaten it.

The Muslim world’s contribution to improving the spiritual, moral, and material conditions of mankind is indispensable to the restoration and maintenance of global peace and prosperity. In promoting unity among Muslims, Pakistan has always had the service of peace as her foremost goal. Experience over the last century or more has shown that disunity in the Muslim world rendered it vulnerable to war, aggression, and mischief.

As peace in West Asia might be on the horizon, Pakistan should lead in setting aside the history of tensions, distrust, and hostilities.

Unity will not be achieved at once, or according to a single plan. It must be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. To bring together Muslim nations in this region the age-old distrust between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan must first be eliminated.

With this aim in view, the government of Pakistan proposes that action be taken immediately in one limited but decisive area.

To begin with we propose that the Afghan-Iran-Pakistan energy sector as a whole be placed under a common high authority, within the framework of an organisation open to the participation of the other countries of West and Central Asia. Pooling energy resources and output should provide immediately for setting up common foundations for economic development as a first step towards closer cooperation. This will change the destinies of these regions which have long been constant victims of intrigue, belligerence and war.

The solidarity thus established will make it plain that any war between or upon Afghanistan, Iran, or Pakistan becomes not merely unthinkable, but impossible. Setting up this powerful productive community, open to all neighbouring countries, and bound ultimately to provide all member countries with the basic energy supplies on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic integration and development.

Open to the whole world, the resulting prosperity and peace will allow the Muslim world to develop their societies with a better balance between charity, commerce, and accumulation.

This will ensure not only the fusion of markets and expansion of production but the alignment of shared cultural values that are necessary to grow a wider and deeper community of nation-states divided by global conflicts.

By pooling resources and production and by instituting a new high authority, whose decisions will bind Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realisation of the first concrete foundation of a West Asian confederation indispensable to the preservation of regional and global peace.

To promote the realisation of the objectives defined, the government of Pakistan is ready to open negotiations on the following bases.

The task with which this common high authority will be charged will be that of securing in the shortest possible time the modernisation and quality improvement of energy production and distribution; the supply of energy on identical terms to the Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani markets, as well as to the markets of other member countries, leading in time to a well-integrated internal energy market; the development in common of exports to other countries; and the equalisation and improvement of the living conditions of workers in these industries.

To achieve these objectives, a production and investment plan, a compensatory mechanism for equalising prices, and a fund for rationalising the distribution infrastructure, should be instituted during a transition period. The movement of energy resources and output between member countries will immediately be freed from all customs duty, and will not be affected by differential transport rates. Conditions will gradually be created which will spontaneously provide for the more rational distribution of production at the highest level of productivity.

The essential principles and undertakings defined above will be the subject of a treaty signed between the states and submitted for ratification by their parliaments. An arbitrator, appointed by common agreement, will be entrusted with the task of working out the details according to agreed principles, and breaking any deadlock in negotiations.

The common high authority entrusted with the management of the scheme will be composed of independent persons appointed by the governments, giving equal representation. A chairman will be chosen by common agreement between the governments. The authority’s decisions will be enforceable in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan and other member countries. Appropriate measures will be provided for appeal against the decisions of the authority.

A representative of the Organisation of Islamic Conference will be accredited to the authority, and will be instructed to make a suitable public report to the organisation twice yearly. The constitution of the authority will be aligned also with other regional agreements of which Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan are members.

The institution of the high authority will in no way prejudge the methods of ownership of enterprises. In the exercise of its functions, the common high authority will take into account the existing international commitments and obligations of all member countries, so long as they remain in force. n

The writer is a retired economist.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019