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Opinion: How Pakistan Can Pivot To Geo-Economics

As two of the more powerful Sunni states, Pakistan and Turkey have always been natural allies. But if they want to build a real alliance with linked infrastructure and lots of trade and people going back and forth, they will need to include Shiite Iran.

As two of the more powerful Sunni states, Pakistan and Turkey have always been natural allies. But if they want to build a real alliance with linked infrastructure and lots of trade and people going back and forth, they will need to include Shiite Iran.

Pakistan’s leaders have found a new favorite mantra: geo-economics. Almost as soon as they started repeating it; however, the experts started explaining why their focus on geo-economics is likely to fail.

To be fair, the barriers are substantial, but so are the potential benefits. So instead of talking about all the obstacles, let’s start by talking about how this might work and what it will take to get there.

First things first: America will not be part of this equation. As you will see by the end of this piece, the US is far more likely to be one of those aforementioned obstacles. The attempts by Pakistani leaders to entice America into a new type of alliance are admirable but, ultimately, a waste of time.

The sad fact is America holds a grudge and will not soon forget its loss in Afghanistan. Right or wrong, it blames Pakistan for this defeat. It took decades before it was willing to forgive the Vietnamese people for having the audacity to defend themselves. Pakistan and its friends in Afghanistan are likely to suffer similar treatment. As such, political realities within America mean that a new partnership with Pakistan focused on trade is a non-starter. Thankfully, America’s participation is unnecessary and would probably hurt more than it helped.

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The most important part of geo-economics is the economics, and Pakistan can handle that by itself. The main ingredient for good economic policy has always been simple: good governance. Consequently, if Pakistan’s leaders have finally realized how much wealth and power they can gain by a successful pivot to geo-economics, they must begin competently providing the government services necessary to support strong economic growth.

To do that, Pakistan will need to turn itself into a country that is easy to do business in for both local and foreign investors. That requires ensuring everyone is playing by a neutral set of rules that are easily enforced by well-run courts properly empowered to carry out their judgments. A healthy business environment and the rule of law go hand in hand.

Creating a government that can deliver these services requires democratic mechanisms to ensure civilian rule and prioritizing the needs of its merchant class. In other words, Pakistan’s soldiers will need to stay in their barracks and stop acting like used car salesmen.

Once Pakistan takes care of the economics, it can sort the geo part out. Which will also be complicated. America is out. India is out. Afghanistan is in, but it’s more of a liability than an asset with the Taliban in charge. Some of the Central Asian republics might be interested, but Russia will prevent them from meaningfully connecting to Pakistan.

China is in but wants to turn Pakistan into a distribution hub for its goods. Which is fine but will not lead to real power or wealth. That comes from building semi-conductors, machine tools, electric cars, solar panels, heavy construction equipment, and similar goods. If Pakistan is serious about focusing on geo-economics, it will need to connect to countries that can help it develop an industrial and scientific base capable of building the sort of goods that can generate real wealth. That is the only way the benefits will outweigh the many barriers.

Unless I’m rusty on my geo, that leaves Iran as Pakistan’s best and only real option. We all know the reasons these two have never formed a true partnership: the Shiite-Sunni divide, pressure from the Arabs and Americans, the distances and harsh terrain that separate their main population centers, and Iran’s desire to befriend India.

None of that matters because without Iran, Pakistan cannot access Turkey. And Turkey is the key to Pakistan’s geo-economic success. As two of the more powerful Sunni states, Pakistan and Turkey have always been natural allies. But if they want to build a real alliance with linked infrastructure and lots of trade and people going back and forth, they will need to include Shiite Iran.

Luckily, Iran needs this alliance too. It will need more than just regional militias and Syria to protect itself from the ruthless and hypocritical economic and clandestine campaigns being conducted against it. It will need to form alliances with states that enhance its power.

It is already linking itself to China, but the smarter move is to create a free trade zone with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey designed to develop all of their industrial capabilities. Including Afghanistan is also the only way to stabilize that poor nation. As farfetched as this alliance might sound, it has the potential to simultaneously solve the strategic and economic dilemmas faced by all four nations while greatly increasing their power and finally stabilizing a huge chunk of the Muslim world.

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Now that we understand how geo-economics can work and its potential, we need to talk about the barriers. The corrupt, patronage-based systems prevalent in all four nations will need to go. They will need to be replaced by political institutions that can allow the various tribes, sects, and ethnic groups that populate these countries to work together transparently and fairly. That will involve reforms that will upset a lot of entrenched interests in each country.

No one else will like it either. The Saudis and Emiratis will do everything in their power to stop it, even though they should be trying to join it. Same for Israel. America will sanction everyone and kick Turkey out of NATO. But any fool can see Turkey’s days in NATO are numbered. America will throw a tantrum, but its opinion no longer matters. As discussed here, its days as the dominant military force in the Muslim world are numbered.

Even if America wants a vote, it is not entitled to one. America’s wars and love of dictators and warlords have ravaged the region. Its actions have directly and indirectly led to the murder of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of innocents. As long as the leaders responsible for this violence, particularly the fraud-induced violence perpetrated against Iraq, are free to make silly paintings instead of being treated like the war criminals they are, America has no right to an opinion on the Muslim world.

If it wants to cut ties with 400 million-plus souls from Anatolia to the Subcontinent, it is welcome to do so. Given the succession of idiotic leaders it has produced from Bush to Trump, to Marjorie Taylor Green, America is bound to do the dumbest thing possible. Especially since its leaders seem to be following the script from a bad movie by getting dumb and dumber. As it continues to embrace its own right-wing lunacy, the danger it poses to the region will only grow.

Instead of wasting time worrying about or trying to placate America, Muslims must build the strength to protect themselves from its violent stupidity. A focus on geo-economics that follows the roadmap described above is the best route to building this strength.


This article was originally published here, re-shared on TMV with the author’s permission. 

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