D-8 Promise and Reality

‘Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq could form an economic bloc and become a role-model not only for the Muslim World but also for the global community.’

The Islamabad Declaration emphasised the resolve of the 8-D member-countries to promote peace, tolerance and democratic stability. The Declaration identified the role of private sector concerning the economic growth and increasing the intra-D8 trade among the member countries.

The summit meeting of the heads of states and governments of the Developing-8 countries concluded with the signing of the Global Vision document 2012-2030, the 35-point Islamabad Declaration, and the D-8 Charter. Out of the eight countries, six were represented either by heads of states or governments. Absent from the meeting were: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

While new President of Egypt was busy brokering the Gaza ceasefire — a mission in which he ultimately succeeded — Sheikh Hasina Wajid refused to come to Islamabad as she demanded of Pakistan to tender a formal public apology over the atrocities committed in 1971.

President Morsi, though still locked in confrontation with liberal opposition, judiciary and military of Egypt, is fast emerging as a powerful Muslim leader in the Middle East and beyond. He was also scheduled to address the joint session of Pakistan’s parliament, honour reserved for special friends of the country.

The very fact that despite serious security concerns coupled with the Aushra days, the coming of top leaders from the D-8 countries to Islamabad was a demonstration of support to the government and an improved Pakistan’s image abroad. Pakistan got the chairmanship of the grouping from next two years from Nigeria. It is a coincidence that all member countries have popularly elected governments. It explains why the theme of ‘Democratic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity’ was chosen to reflect this dynamic.

The Islamabad Declaration emphasised the resolve of the 8-D member-countries to promote peace, tolerance and democratic stability. The Declaration identified the role of private sector concerning the economic growth and increasing the intra-D8 trade among the member countries. It further talked of boosting cooperation in the industrial and banking sectors with a pledge to focus on agriculture for attainment of food security. The member countries also pledged to strengthen their relations with other regional groupings such as the Group 20, OIC, SAARC, the Arab League, and ASEAN.

The member countries approved a roadmap for attainment of 20%-25% share of the Islamic bloc in Halal Food Potential of worth $2.1 trillion in the global market. It was made part of the D-8 charter for implementation. It needs to be mentioned here that China has a share of $2.1 billion annually in Halal Food, which is increasing by 10% per annum. The OIC share is less than 15%, which is negligible compared to huge potential of the market. The share of D-8 in global trade market is just 5% which the Charter has promised to take it to 25%.

The Global Vision Document 2012-2030 talked of putting in place multilateral arrangements on the pattern of the United Nations for resolution of disputes and promotion of peace.

 The Global Vision Document 2012-2030 talked of putting in place multilateral arrangements on the pattern of the United Nations for resolution of disputes and promotion of peace.
 Speaking on the occasion, President Asif Ali Zardari threw light on threats facing the D-8 countries. He said that the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their affiliates were a serious threat not only to the world peace but also to the D-8 countries as they sought to impose their narrow-minded and the bigoted agenda. He promised to ‘not allow the handful of religious radicals to hijack Islam’. The president mooted the suggestion of setting up commercial banks in the member-countries to boost trade. He said that massive trade and goodwill potential existed among the D-8 countries and their current level of cooperation was well below the promise.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad gave a glad tiding of construction of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline by year 2014. He said that work was already on the project. He also said that Iran would transmit 1,000 megawatt of power for border areas of Pakistan. He talked of the imperative of building a New World Order based on equality, social justice and fair-play. He said that Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq could form an economic bloc and become a role-model not only for the Muslim world but also for the global community.

For Pakistan, which is energy deficient at the moment, this news means a lot as the construction of gas pipeline would help her get rid of the worst power shortages which have crippled national economy by shutting down factories and businesses and laying off thousands of people. Pakistan faces the challenge of taming down the US, which is strongly opposed to the IP gas pipeline. The Pakistani leadership needs to call spade a spade and tell the US that the project was critical to meet the energy needs of Pakistan and there was no way it was backtracking on it under pressure and duress.

Going by the text of documents approved on the occasion of D-8 Summit meeting, it can be said that they make a good reading and also betray the realization among the member-countries that they need to enhance their bilateral and multilateral cooperation. However, as has often been said that ‘it is a wide disconnect between rhetoric and reality’ which should have been addressed by chartering a clear line of action on how to meet these targets by specifying timelines.

If the objectives enunciated in the documents are actually implemented, it can usher in a new era of progress and prosperity in the region. This is an era of knowledge-driven economies wherein regional groupings are fast emerging to accelerate economic cooperation. The real challenge for D-8 countries lies in injecting dynamism in the organization and rendering it capable of playing its due role in the global affairs.

Pakistan is facing a great challenge as it takes over the chairmanship of the organization for two years. It is yet to be seen as to how it plays its due role in reinvigorating the D-8. The potential of the D-8 countries for economic development is immense; what they need is the vision and long-term commitment to walk the talk.

 

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