Economics pave the way for cooperation in South and East Asia.
by Rajendra Prabhu.
Pakistan’s successful general election in May marked the first time a civilian government has survived a full term in the country. Thanks to growing stability despite threats by cleric-backed extremists, now the question is not whether the democratic rule endorsed for a second time by a huge voter turnout will survive another five-year term; the question now is how far the new government will be able to change the old order in an Islam-entrenched country long sandwiched between the mullahs and the military, and thereby be able to influence world events for stability across Asia.
Significant events in Pakistan, India, China, Japan, a democratizing Myanmar, and even Washington have underlined that basic concern. China’s new Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, chose New Delhi as the first leg of his maiden visit abroad after taking power in March and from there went on to Islamabad. Importantly, the Chinese premier’s visit to India followed heightened tensions between the two countries over border violations by the Chinese army in the northeast of India. After an initial standoff, the Chinese withdrew, creating the right climate for Li’s visit in New Delhi to be productive.
The two governments agreed to push negotiations for a “fair, reasonable, and mutually acceptable settlement”. This enabled Li to talk of developing a “strategic partnership” discussion with his Indian counterpart regarding trade and investments. For the Indian Prime Minister, it enabled conveying to his Chinese visitor the Indian concerns over repeated border violations by Beijing forces and over the Chinese-built dams on the river Brahmaputra, which flows through Tibet into India and Bangladesh. Observers saw a marked absence of reference to India’s fears of the Pakistan-China entente demonstrated by China’s assistance of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons production and Beijing investing in the Gwadar port and naval facility in Pakistan for China’s direct access to the Indian Ocean. Subsequently, no mention of …
To read complete articles from our Summer 2013 issue, you must subscribe to either the print or eReader edition.