Though most of the people won’t have come across a chance to see a chameleon, they would, surely, have some idea of it. It’s a great species in that it upskills humans to make them learn some basic instincts of survival. According to biologists, the key behind chameleon’s survival rests in its amazing ability to fade into background and disappear. To motivational speakers, it has always been common to talk of chameleonic visual wonder so as to familiarize their audiences how simple it is to outwit their opponents: just fade into the background and disappear. The strategy suits to some firms or companies at some point of their growth as it’s not just about survivability but also about adaptability, contingent upon the surrounding realities.
Needless to say, the purpose of the analogy is not to assert that countries, too, adopt this discourse, simply because they are the chief actors of the international system and more importantly, connected to states’ primacy in the system, it isn’t in their interest to fade away when the immediate paradigms require them to be proactive. That being the case, stating in a straightforward manner, it is catastrophic for countries to even think of it, especially in the postwar period.
But it’s the international system; full of absurdities and anomalies and wherein shocks are always in store. Though it may seem strange, it is not hard to find the kind of examples in the history of foreign affairs.
In the scenario that emerged after 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran nearly faded itself when it massively transformed its political system, started to antagonize its neighbours by promoting and sponsoring its religious ideology and taking hostage the US diplomats and citizens. The radical changes brought about in the country’s policies drive intra-regional cooperation to a bare minimum, as was apparent from the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) which was dissolved in 1979, and also the havoc played with the Iranian economy. The point is, with each passing day, Iran became less important and relevant in the international affairs.
For a considerable time, the Arab coalition that fought 1973 War against Israel also suffered from this degeneracy after their lopsided rout in the war. The Arab nations have been telling their people of their formidable strength and inability of Israel to defend itself by its own strength. The strategic folly of not taking the overall factors seriously and luring the people into a war they couldn’t win led the Arab nations into an abysmal scenario, from which, claim many scholars, the Arab world has still not been able to recover. The Soviet Union, which boasted world’s largest standing military and second largest army by the 1990, also faded and disappeared from the world’s horizon by disintegrating into many republics. The USSR ventured relentlessly to maintain its superpower status in the world, but its deteriorating conditions at home and worsening economy failed to support its military and economic endeavours.
When countries increasingly fail to fulfil the needs of their peoples, and institute a system that works only for the benefit of the few, no matter whatever attempt a country makes to establish a sense of stability and legitimacy, it is always fake and temporary. Tunisia, a country with comparatively better defined cultural identities and a sense of continuity than its regional counterparts, crumbled under the storms of discontent; the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions instigated brutal armed opposition in Algeria which virtually stumbled to the brink of collapse; and in Venezuela, once Latin America’s richest country, the ongoing violence has plunged the country into Hobbesian state: life has become ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’ for its citizens.
Nothing of the kind threatens Pakistan, yet it is undeniable that a large chunk of the country’s population today faces a level of economic and social insecurity that their predecessors did not experience. The government is making tall claims of reforming and reinvigorating the economy. As some positive signs indicate, the economy of Pakistan has, no doubt, gradually grown to be stable and is heading to a fairly positive direction; however, there comes the scourge of rising income and wealth inequalities. As indicated by a UNDP report (Development Advocate Pakistan: Volume 3, Issue 2) ‘the problem of 22 families controlling 66pc of Pakistan’s industrial assets, as identified by Dr Mahbubul Haq in 1968, remains relevant today due to rising inequality in the country where the richest 20pc consume seven times more than the poorest 20pc.’ “Persistent inequality hampers economic growth,” warns the report, “impedes poverty reduction, fuels crime, squanders talent and human potential, and stifles social mobility. An unequal society is not only unfair, it is less prosperous and stable.”
Not just economic, but political institution too are benefitting the few and burdening the many. Parliament has become a club of the rich as the cost of contesting an election has become so high that it systematically excludes the poor. Having no say in the political decision-making, the average citizen in the country is increasingly being marginalized. They are becoming hapless victims of an economic and political system which is rigged against them and over which they have little influence.
It is one thing to make tall claims in air-conditioned rooms and conference halls, but dealing with the real people is quite another. One report says that half the country’s children are deprived of basic education, and a third of the population have no access to primary medical facility. According to a recent estimate by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), nearly 37.5 million people in Pakistan are not receiving proper nourishment. In simple terms, it means that there are millions of children who bodily and mentally will never develop fully because they were malnourished as infants.
Especially in the contemporary world when multilateralism and globalization are the main themes and when the international system is heavily impressed by political volatility and fluidity, the writing on the wall is scrupulously unreserved that every country has to make the best of whatever it can count in its possession. However, one doesn’t need to be an expert to infer from above statistics that somewhere within the polemics of politicians and the pointless plans of policymakers there is something inherently rotten in the country and that the value of life of an average citizen has lost.
A country’s role in foreign affairs is primarily the function of its strength and capabilities. Without national well-being and defined national policies, no country can play an active role in the region and beyond.
Though Pakistan stands in a highly strategic geographical position astride on the greatest arteries of world trade, yet it commands only a marginal respect from its partners in terms of its bilateral and multilateral relations. Pakistan is an important part of China’s OBOR initiative since an exclusive corridor, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, passes through it. However, corresponding to the country’s profiles maintained by Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Pakistan will not even be among the top 5 largest trading countries among the BRI members. There has also been much hullabaloo over Pakistan’s so-called ‘indispensable’ role in affairs of the Muslim world, and with these consideration in mind, our PM participated in the Arab Islamic American summit. What followed after the summit was an uproar in the media that the PM has not even been given a chance to address the summit.
In our foreign affairs, as in our domestic life, truth hurts. But, then, the sooner we realize the true extent of our problems, the better for aspirations of our people that in the course of their embodiment will make our country great and prosperous. It’s the only we have got.
Our leaders must provide real solutions to the problems that are pushing a large number of the citizens toward an unending cycle of poverty and deprivation. The country urgently needs to take concrete steps toward reducing unemployment, eliminating corruption, promoting economic growth, addressing disastrous demographics and helping entrepreneurs to lead their ways.
In short, there is a need to reinvent and reinvigorate the ethos of the people and defend human rights, freedoms and dignity, while making the country more fair and equitable.
If those at the helm of affairs do not focus on pressing priorities, the problems will continue to cripple our ability to protect our interests and project our influence. We must remember that no country intends to faint but the point is some still go down the path, simply because they fail to realize it.