The exit of the US from Afghanistan has set the international community, scholars, economists and politicians to think of fresh approaches to ensure security, peace, global prosperity and stability.

As warned by ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair ‘radical Islam’ remains a ‘first-order security threat’ despite two decades of confrontation across the globe. And he has called upon the leading powers to make fresh joint efforts to develop an agreed strategy.

To quote an eminent US social scientist, Anne Marie Slaughter, “America should abandon its role as global policeman and help the international community in problem-solving.” Her view is also reportedly shared by a vast majority of Americans whose quality of life and livelihood has been affected by the severe health and finance-driven economic crises.

But more significant is the observation made by US President Joe Biden. It is about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries. Biden’s theory is that “America may not be a swaggering global cop, but it could be a friendly community leader,” US media reports.

The fresh US approach reminds one of what the UK did after it was crippled by the Second World War. It gave up peacefully its colonial territories but tried to maintain its ties with newly independent countries under the umbrella of the Commonwealth to advance and sustain its interests and influence. It also helped the economic and social development of the former colonies with mixed outcomes.

After the end of the US occupation, the Taliban interestingly want the US to replicate the British approach and are seeking American economic cooperation based on mutual interest and respect. They are also seeking help from the international community to rebuild their country and economy devastated by their 42-year war. Reconstruction also featured in the recent dialogue between Taliban leadership and Pakistan’s Ambassador in Kabul.

The inescapable issues behind the global turbulence are that of worsening problems of the teeming billions left behind — deprivation breeds extremism

Pakistan has immediately responded. In the September 6 statement, Prime Minister Imran Khan has underscored the need for the world community to remain engaged with Afghanistan economically and help rebuild the country.

But the Taliban spokesperson was also quoted to have described China as the most important partner while looking to Beijing to rebuild the country and harness its rich copper deposits. Conscious of the changing regional realities, they are reportedly pressing China to include Afghanistan in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

China itself has now decided to shift to a policy of ‘common prosperity’ at home. The Chinese President Xi Jinping is pressing businesses and entrepreneurs to help narrow a stubborn wealth gap that could hold up the country’s rise. He has stressed that the next phase of growth demands this shift, adding that a powerful China should be a fair China.

It is the United Nations that is the first to respond to the Taliban’s call. After a meeting on August 5 with UN undersecretary Martin Griffith with Taliban Political Office Head Mullah Abdul Baradar, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said: “The UN delegation promised continuation of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people”, saying that he would call for further assistance to Afghanistan during the coming meeting of donor countries.

The Talibans are following the example of Vietnam which opened up to international markets after the US exit from Saigon.

Qatar and Turkey are making efforts to refurbish the Kabul airport to allow the evacuation of foreign and Afghan nationals and the arrival of humanitarian aid.

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Syed Abida Husain is of the view that Taliban with a moderate face will be acceptable to the international community.

The real problem in the latest global discourse is what the new strategy should be to tackle what is perceived as the greatest global threat. Casting aside prejudices and historical baggage the relevant issues must be thoroughly discussed objectively and maladies identified to find the right course. The underlying core, inescapable issues behind the global turbulence are that of worsening problems of the teeming billions left behind. Deprivation breeds extremism.

Probably the best way to go about things is through a blend of continuity, where it is found useful, and change — urgently needed — to initiate an evolutionary process of building a new peaceful and prosperous future for everyone. The world is already ripe for a transformational change and the global movers and shakers have to seize this opportunity with both hands.

The past may or may not be a guide for the future but it does offer a rich experience for the formulation of sound new public policies. To evolve a new strategy, policymakers have to fall back on the unfinished agenda of the first industrial revolution — concepts espoused by pioneers of the industrial revolution, social scientists and leading statesmen, particularly of Great Britain, centuries ago to nurture emerging infant capitalism and develop it as the most progressive instrument in the growth of human civilization.

These powerful ideas propagated then — the right of nations to shape their own destiny and the right of individuals to mould the quality of their life as they deemed fit without usurping the right of others have become a living reality. So the first obligation of all states should be to unleash the creative energies of their people at the grassroots and empower/enable them to improve their standards of living, step by step, by themselves.

In the conduct of international relations, sovereignty compromise makes emerging economies dependent on debts, (instead of on balanced foreign trade that is in the mutual interest of nations), retards socially sustainable development and widens the rich-poor divide within and among nations. As social science tells us, enlightened — and not regressive —nationalism/protectionism can widen the scope of international economic and trade cooperation and speed up the process for the creation of a world economy.

The current grave global crisis has brought fresh opportunities to build a new international social order anchored on peace, shared prosperity and stability which the world can ill-afford to miss.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, September 13th, 2021

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