New threats

The ‘Naya Pakistan’ under prime minister Imran Khan has reiterated its commitment to ties with China. The countries have pledged to complete the $50-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Also, the foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, has expressed desire to further enhance bilateral strategic partnership. While conveying the desire of the Chinese leadership to work with the new government and further enhance the already strong relationship between Pakistan and China, Wang also underscored the significance of China-Pakistan closeness. The strengthening of Sino-Pak ties is not unexpected. However, at a time when the China-US tariff war threatens to plunge Asian markets in turmoil, depress the rupee further and hike oil import bills hugely, there is much to worry for India. With the nation headed for its next general election in less than a year, these changes bode ill for an economy that is already shrinking as an after-effect of negative domestic policies and measures. The change of guard in Pakistan, with the reins of people’s power in the hands of a pro-military, pro-hardliner leader, bodes ill for India going by the developments in Pakistan of late. The Pakistani government on September 7 removed Atif Mian, a globally respected economist, from the newly formed Economic Advisory Council.

What was troubling about the removal was the fact that Atif was an Ahmadi; the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan suffers the status of religious outcasts and Atif’s removal is being seen as a gesture to ‘respect’ the sentiments of people who do not like Ahmadis. It was also a measure taken to assuage religious fanatics, including the far-right Islamist Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, who virulently opposed Atif’s appointment.

India has more worry on its hands if things go from bad to worse in Pakistan’s politics. We will do well to keep our options open with nations such as Iran, even if the US does impose sanctions on that country, to ensure that our energy security is not compromised. The US is in a belligerent mood under Trump and the country is like a bull in a china shop. In trying to re-establish its monopolistic control over the rest of the world, the US is taking measures that are causing harm not just to the developing world but also to itself. India needs to proactively build better relations with other countries in the neigbourhood if it needs to stay afloat in a market-driven world. It will have to quickly find a way out of the fuel price muddle and the solution may not lie in subsidizing fuel again, since the Indian economy is in no good health. It is a positive opportunity for the country to renew its push for exploration of alternative energy sources to meet the needs of the country. Most of the policies of the government, discovered to be wayward later, have put people through a lot of pain. And all the pain has come down to nothing in due course. Fuel price rise is also inflicting much suffering on the people, particularly in the lower strata of society. People, however unwillingly, could bear the pain if the government would take effective measures to lead the country towards energy self sufficiency. Under the prevailing circumstances, India lacks the leverage it needs to get things its way. And with a neighbourhood growing hostile, the country stands to be weakened. And short-term measures will not do anymore. Especially since our government itself helped destroy the economy that was just commencing to put its anchors down and grow robust.

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