FOR Pakistan’s sustained economic progress, it is essential for the country to maintain strong linkages with multilateral bodies that focus on trade and development. In this regard, it is unfortunate that Pakistan was unable to attend the High-level Dialogue on Global Development hosted on the sidelines of the virtual BRICS summit by China. Aside from the BRICS members, a number of states, including from this region, participated in the event, which is being viewed as the first step towards the expansion of the multilateral body. The Foreign Office says “one member” blocked Pakistan’s attendance, with sources telling this paper that India — a founding member of BRICS — was responsible for this country’s exclusion. This, sadly, is the same attitude that has resulted in the paralysis of Saarc. Moreover, the authorities need to explore the reason why China did not push harder for Pakistan’s inclusion in the event, even though decisions within BRICS are taken with the consultation of all members. And though the FO insists Islamabad-Beijing ties are as strong as ever, irritants, if any, must be removed using diplomatic channels to ensure that bilateral relations remain strong.
It is possible that China is concerned about the security of its nationals working in Pakistan, especially after the terrorist attack at Karachi University in April in which three Chinese citizens were among the victims. The state needs to convince Beijing that it is doing all possible to ensure the security of Chinese nationals, and to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist attacks targeting Beijing’s citizens. However, it must also be said that were it not for China’s behind-the-scenes help, Pakistan’s exit from the FATF grey list would have been more difficult. It is therefore hoped that bilateral cooperation continues at the highest levels, and Pakistan is able to one day join BRICS and other development-focused bodies. Where India’s malevolent actions towards this country are concerned, there needs to be a new thinking in the subcontinent that focuses on cooperation instead of perpetual confrontation. India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally will do little to bring peace to the region. Instead of indulging in mutually damaging behaviour, both states need to start afresh and work towards regional integration and South-South cooperation in general. Pakistan, thus, must liaise with its foreign friends, and keep channels open with perceived external foes, to ensure that this country has representation at all forums where developing economies gather for mutual benefit.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2022