ABSTRACT: This article focuses on the shift of India from the notion of “Aatma Nirbhar” (self-reliance) to “Vishwa Nirbhar” (reliant on the world). Proceeding with the historical aspects of India’s foreign policy, I have tried to track the series of events that led to India adopting a realistic policy and discarding its earlier idealistic policy. Subsequently, the article throws light upon the actions of India undertaken in pursuance of its foreign policy during the COVID-19 pandemic and is backed by their examination and analysis. From exporting vaccines to other nations under the “Vaccine Maitri” scheme to not being able to meet its domestic vaccine requirements, unnecessarily focusing on China time and again when it comes to India’s foreign policy, ambiguity towards India-US relation during COVID-19 pandemic to identifying the post-COVID foreign policy requirements of India, this article tracks the developments in India’s foreign policy due to COVID-19 pandemic and critiques the foreign policy measures undertaken from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic till now and provides with some suggestions for the betterment of the India as a global power, as a potential neighbour and as a nation that believes in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” i.e. “the world is one family”.
A LOOK INTO INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY AND ITS SUBSEQUENT SHIFT: FROM IDEALISM TO REALISM
Due to security challenges from the world and regional institutions, India’s foreign policy shifted from idealism to realism with the signing of the Wachtel Accord in 1954. India then showed its ‘sense’ of realism over and again while being confronted with various challenges in the political realm, leading to the adoption of a realist strategy which was now visible via military realism, multi-alignment, and India’s power imbalance with China. Therefore, border clashes and nuclear proliferation compelled the country to take a more realistic approach and focus on national security issues. As a result, the era of idealism in Indian foreign policy ended.
Military power is central to realist philosophy, whether as a defensive strategy for survival or an offensive strategy for power maximisation, as a means to a goal or as an end in itself. Power is vital, but hard power is the most important power of all, according to most realists. According to realists, India’s desire to be a great power must be matched by realistic military capability.
It is not only a matter of status but also of survival. India has a history of violent territorial wars with its neighbours, most notably China and Pakistan, with periodic clashes, the most recent being the Galwan Valley fiasco.
DEVELOPMENTS DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
COVID-19 pandemic started with initially a few fatalities but economic constraints forced a staggered lockdown exit strategy, resulting in a spike in COVID-19 cases. Now, India appears to be weakened as a result of the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic and protracted internal policy gridlock. The Indian public health infrastructure, oxygen shortage, and hundreds of abandoned dead bodies scattered over the Ganga’s banks have all made international headlines. The wave of Covid-19 has shattered the illusion that India is a rising global power.
The Indian immunization effort has also failed miserably. Before the second wave struck India, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was actively pitching India to the rest of the globe as a net vaccine provider. India exported 66 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to 95 nations as part of the well-publicized “Vaccine Maitri” campaign. China, on the other hand, has sold 80 million doses to 60 nations.
When the developed world was focused on internal vaccine management and had imposed a moratorium on vaccine exports, India was busy packaging vaccines in export containers. Ironically, the Prime Minister, who was fully aware of the need for coordinated regional and global action to combat COVID-19, entirely ignored the local need for an organised strategy to fighting the second wave of COVID-19 attack.
India’s foreign policy posture has altered substantially as the world grapples with the Covid-19 crisis. The second wave of COVID-19 pushed India to defy its 17-year-old foreign policy and accept foreign help, despite the fact that doing so might have far-reaching strategic consequences for the country. India, which previously supplied vaccinations to over 90 countries under its ‘Vaccine Maitri’ programme, has now received foreign help from over 25 countries as a result of the second wave. The reasoning for this is still unclear, given there is a scarcity of vaccinations in India, so why prioritise other countries?
Before moving further, it is pertinent to take a look at the origins of the policy of “not accepting foreign aid”.
The policy of not taking foreign aid was originally envisioned by India’s Ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh, but no particular justification or reasoning was offered for the same, and with what may be considered a “policy shift,” India was forced to suffer certain repercussions as a result of this policy. One of the repercussion is as follows, the United Kingdom opposed India’s request for financing from the International Development Association (IDA) for national initiatives aimed at promoting economic development, eliminating disparities, and improving living circumstances claiming that these funds are intended for the world’s poorest countries, and that because India obviously does not want foreign help, it should not require these grants as their actions imply.
Subsequently, India was removed from the list of IDA borrowing countries in 2014. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s administration then decided not to accept any foreign help worth less than $100 million. Interestingly, in contrast, during the COVID-19 pandemic, India appears to have welcomed foreign assistance regardless of its magnitude; for example, Canada provided India with $10 million in financial financing, which can undoubtedly be seen as a blot on the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ canvas.
With the world’s fourth biggest foreign exchange reserves, one wonders why those assets aren’t being used by India to purchase vital goods, instead of accepting funds from other countries. India must keep in mind that these benefits come with some opportunity cost, while there is no wrong in accepting aid that is not supplied for the sake of gaining points but is given generously.
The tremendous help and support that India has obtained from all corners of the globe is due to broad media coverage of its tragedy, since the globalized world cannot allow a rapidly evolving virus to survive in India or anywhere else on the planet.
DIGGING DEEPER INTO THE IMPACTS OF THE PANDEMIC ON NEW DELHI’S FOREIGN POLICY:
India’s Foreign Policy during COVID-19 can be analysed and examined on the contours of: –
Primacy in the Indian Ocean region/ Indo-Pacific region: The acceptance of foreign aid after a 17-year hiatus has been described as an exception by India’s foreign secretary, Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, and will not be seen as a shift in India’s foreign policy. Material help, political influence, and historical links are the foundations of India’s longstanding supremacy in the area and historical links alone are insufficient to sustain its regional predominance.
India’s political influence is diminishing, and its capacity to assist neighboring countries is shrinking. The epidemic has harmed India’s capacity and ambition to contribute to the Indo-Pacific and Quadrilateral. Any ambitious military expenditure or upgrading plans are thwarted, resulting in Beijing’s growing influence in the area. The Second Wave has accelerated China’s invasion of India’s strategic space, and it appears that India will be unable to stand up to China in terms of political will as well as balance of power concerns. Undoubtedly, during the COVID-19 epidemic, China has arisen as a stronger state in general. Last year, India battled with China at Galwan; with regards to any future incident with China of the same type, I do not believe that we can expect India to respond in the same way, and that the response would be more conciliatory. In recent years, India has been compelled to cede before Beijing, and it is probable that South Asian governments will also be more oriented towards China, therefore, South Asia’s power balance may shift toward China.
India’s Association with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) and its Defense Expenditure: Military has aided in India’s rise to the role of regional hegemon in South Asia, and it now serves as a key unit in today’s multipolar globe. Because of the volatility and transitory nature of India’s border with China and Pakistan, the country has made significant investments in border security and infrastructure.
Prima facie, the COVID-19 epidemic will prevent any aggressive military expenditure or modernization plans from being implemented, as it would be prudent for the emphasis to be on global diplomacy and regional geopolitics. Therefore, now, it is unreasonable to expect India contributing enthusiastically or at all towards the expansion of the QUAD.
The Impact of Economics on Geopolitics: COVID-19 has caused widespread economic misery, a fall in foreign direct investment and industrial output, and a spur in unemployment, all of which would restrict India’s strategic aspirations. therefore, acknowledging the economic turmoil, a lockdown, declining Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), slow industrial production, and rising poverty and unemployment, for a few years, we should prioritise internal growth, and for domestic welfare international arena may be disregarded. As a result, it would be prudent to pause India’s post-covid foreign strategy for the time being. At the very least, the COVID-19 epidemic would have an indirect influence on India’s objective of retaining strategic autonomy.
Add to it the impending UP assembly elections in 2022 and general elections in 2024. Domestic political concerns will dampen the political establishment’s enthusiasm for foreign policy innovation or initiatives. As a result, post-covid-19, Indian foreign policy is likely to be gloomy.
The problem with Indian foreign policy is the country’s continuous fixation with competing with China. Since America began focused on China in the mid-1950s, the ruling Indian elite has believed that India’s primary role in global affairs is to control China. The partnership with the United States adds to New Delhi’s obsession with Beijing. Unfortunately, many members of India’s security and strategic affairs elite regard U.S. pressure as a privilege. Pressure is being viewed as a chance to increase the emphasis of foreign policy, leaving economic diplomacy in the dust.
Contrary to India’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad’s statement in December 2019, India has not allowed Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE to conduct 5G trials in India. Second, as already apprised of, for realists, military power has always taken centre stage, and for the majority of them, “hard power” is the true power not only for status but also for survival. The recent territorial conflict between India and China at Galwan Valley, and attempts of China to prevent the WHO from investigating the origins of the COVID-19 virus, which is said to have originated in Wuhan, China, indicate towards the two nations’ non-cordial bilateral and multilateral relations.
During the epidemic, the whole globe faced severe supply shortages, owing largely to intentional Chinese actions (Simon J. Evenett, 2020). According to the campaign initiated by India, Japan, and Australia, i.e., the Supply China Resilience Initiative, nations are now looking for alternatives to supply chains that are unstable owing to China. Also, because discussions on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union have been restarted, although after an 8-year hiatus, India may continue to seek new market opportunities and diversify in order to minimize reliance on China on a variety of issues.
The MEA is guilty of portraying an inflated picture of India’s prowess as the world’s vaccine production powerhouse. With the exception of India, Bhutan, and the Maldives, this foreign policy blunder has allowed China to increase its vaccine-related diplomatic operations in South Asia. India pledged to supply 30 million AstraZeneca doses to Bangladesh by June, but has barely supplied 7 million. Due to an unexpected halt in vaccine supply from New Delhi, Dhaka has been obliged to accept a gift of 5,00,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China. Nepal has received 8,00,000 doses from China in response to an increase in illnesses.
One can only hope that the current health crisis, which, according to the Lancet journal, will result in one million deaths by 1 August, will force the MEA to pause and chart a new course that will help India achieve economic prosperity rather than wasting its meagre resources on pyrrhic victories in border battles.
India-US Relations: In April, 2021, the United States had delayed clearance for exporting raw materials for production of vaccines in India, a reason was offered later by the States albeit a dent originated in India-US ties. The ramifications of the same may be observed in the near future. Following COVID-19, India may find it more difficult to oppose US requests for a stronger military partnership; in the long run, the US may be unsure if India can compete with China and subsequently, what may be expected from the United States is that it will not gamble entirely on India, but rather on Beijing or somewhere in the centre.
As the world transitions to a post-COVID system, India must not only seek to solve fundamental infrastructural shortages in the health sector and elsewhere, but also increase its position in the liberal international order. India, in particular, must establish itself as an effective Asian force that can provide a counterbalance to China. This is where the United States will come in handy. It is critical for the United States and India to collaborate in order to strengthen international governance and the institutions that serve as the foundation of the global order. Another significant step for India may be to gain a permanent membership on the Security Council. The most serious flaw in India and the United States’ Indo-Pacific alliance is their policies toward China; these policies must be aligned with China.
The covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to a halt and highlighted many countries’ weaknesses in the healthcare sector, and a stronger US-India relationship partnership can make an important contribution toward improving global institutions such as the United Nations Security Council and the World Health Organization’s leadership.
For human survival in a post-pandemic world, a slew of domestic measures, particularly in health, food processing, manufacturing, and job creation, are urgently needed. Much of this, however, will be determined by the government’s available resources and the degree of fiscal flexibility it can afford without jeopardizing fiscal prudence and macroeconomic balance. This, in turn, will heavily influence the direction, scope, and pace of our renewed realism reconfiguration of our foreign policy calculation in the next years and decades. Because the diplomatic capacity for ambitious foreign policy goals will be restricted, Indian foreign policy in the post-Covid-19 era is unlikely to be business as usual. However, Covid-19 may have provided the world’s least interconnected area with just such a chance. Covid-19 will also offer up new regional prospects for collaboration, particularly under the auspices of SAARC, an endeavour that had some preliminary success during the first wave of the epidemic. India might benefit from focusing the region’s collective attention on “regional health multilateralism” to encourage mutual aid and cooperative action in health emergencies like this. Classical geopolitics in South Asia should be elevated to the level of health diplomacy, environmental concerns, and regional connectivity.
The G20, the Global South and India
The G20 summit in India turned out to be not ordinary event. The summit of representatives of the largest economies and military-political potentials showed global trends in the struggle for leadership and development. The G20 meeting demonstrated India’s diplomatic triumph, which proved a rather profound understanding of world processes and trends. The most important consequence of the summit was the adoption of a new global economic and infrastructure project to export goods from India through the Middle East to Europe. In addition, the countries of the Global South have shown that they are not ready to oppose Russia openly and do not want to politicize the Ukrainian crisis.
The Group of Twenty originated at the turn of the XXI. During the deep economic and financial crisis in Asia, the developed countries of the West sought to formalize a new coordination structure. The idea was to create a forum to exchange views and global coordination of financial and economic issues. Then, the finance ministers of the Group of Eight solicited an initiative to expand the range of countries to discuss financial policy issues, inviting such large and actively growing states as China and India.
By the beginning of the XXI, there was an objective viewpoint in Western capitals that it was impossible to solve world problems without involving India and China in the problems of global governance. The idea of globalization was becoming dominant among intellectuals and development leaders during this period. After the collapse of bipolarity and the disintegration of the USSR, the world lost unnecessary dividing lines, ideological enmity and confrontation between the two blocs. Globalization was becoming a natural and necessary aspect of development. The idea originated in the UK and the USA and has become prevalent in the capitals of developed countries. Thus, the Group of Twenty was created.
Nonetheless, after the founding conference in Berlin in December 1999, the G20 was almost forgotten. Before the new financial crisis in 2008, there were no summits: the main format was the annual meetings of finance ministers and heads of central banks. The fact that the situation in the global economy was critical is indicated by the fact that the G20 summits met not once a year but as emergency meetings. The first, named “anti—crisis”, was held in November 2008 in Washington, the next in April 2009 in London, and, in Pittsburgh in September of the same year.
The severity of the economic crisis has passed over time, and the G20 has upgraded to the political level. The Forum, which unites countries from different parts of the world, is much more representative and balanced than the G7 and allows world leaders to meet without organizing an official visit to discuss current affairs. The Group of Twenty, major advanced and emerging economies collectively represent about 80-90% of the world’s gross national product, 70-80% of world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population. The Group includes 19 major national economies, as well as The European Union as a joint participant.
The G20 Summit in New Delhi on September 9-10 was an outstanding event in the life of this organization. Three aspects can be stressed out. First, the G20 has expanded at the expense of the African Union. Secondly, the summit reached an agreement on creating a transport corridor that will be completed by India and its partners and is considered by New Delhi and the West as an alternative to the Chinese One Belt, One Road project. If this transport project is successfully implemented, it can change the balance of power in the global economy and significantly strengthen India’s position in the international system. Thirdly, the topic concerning the Ukrainian-Russian conflict was essentially secondary for the first time since February 2022 at a representative interstate forum. The countries of the Global South refused to politicize this conflict and take sides.
All three developments have become possible thanks to the successful work of Indian diplomacy. Apparently, it is safe to talk about India as a growing and established contender for the status of a great power. The last day of the summit was marked by a visit of its participants to the Raj Ghat memorial, created at the cremation site of the national hero of India – Mahatma Gandhi.
From the perspective of world politics, the most important idea was the creation of a new transport corridor, which was supported by all the largest economies in the world. It was decided to develop an action plan within a few months and start implementation. Its goal is to launch a large–scale project for the construction of railways and ports intended to transport goods from India to the Middle East and Europe. The memorandum of understanding, based on which the project is being created, is signed by Joseph Biden, Narendra Modi, and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman al Saud.
China’s excessive and active growth worries the most developed countries of the world, especially the United States and Great Britain. Some concern is also present in a number of Asian capitals, including Japan, India, South Korea, and partly Vietnam. Growth generates China’s ambitions, and intentions to spread its power and influence have a particular impact on the actions of other major players. Having a complicated history of relations with China, several countries are looking for formats and systems of cooperation to deter possible aggressive attempts to expand their influence and growth. Many intellectuals are convinced that the confrontation between the United States and China will become the main and determining factor of the XXI. The idea of a new transport corridor, which has become a demonstration of the success of the diplomacy of India and its partners in the West, has a specific potential for diversifying transport supplies and hedging the risks of Chinese growth.
Therefore, the G-20 summit was a success for India and demonstrated a sufficiently deep understanding of world processes, stability, and professionalism of its diplomacy. New Delhi’s ideas and projects have been supported by many players, including the conflicting West and East. India has become a conductor and mentor of the interests of the Global South. The expansion of the G20 at the summit in India at the expense of the African Union has become a symbol of this. In addition, despite the high level of conflict in current international relations and pressure, India managed to protect the economic summit from excessive politicization and collective condemnation.
The G20 New Delhi declaration: Is “One future” possible?
The G20 New Delhi Declaration, themed “One earth, one family, one future,” stands as a remarkable diplomatic achievement for India, even in the face of intricate geopolitical dynamics challenging the notion of “one future.” It demonstrates how India’s diplomatic masterstrokes, whether the breakthrough on Ukraine or the inclusion of the African Union as a permanent G20 member, transformed the seemingly impossible into reality. Specifically, the joint statement on the war in Ukraine by the West and the Russia-China bloc was unimaginable. The absence of Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping raised questions and concerns, but India’s Foreign Minister Jaisnakar addressed it as “not unusual.” Against all odds, India’s diplomacy successfully built bridges between the divided powers. How did the G20 New Delhi Declaration work this magic?
The language used in the 37-page G20 New Delhi Declaration is a testament to the power of wordsmithing, persuading everyone involved. While Western nations were eager to address the conflict in Ukraine, India deftly navigated this sensitive terrain. The declaration tactfully states, “Today’s era must not be one of war” in reference to the Ukrainian conflict, avoiding explicit condemnation of Russia. Notably, Prime Minister Modi engaged in a telephone conversation with President Putin just before the summit, demonstrating Russia’s willingness to engage in discussions regarding the Ukrainian conflict without falling into the blame game. In contrast, the Bali Declaration from the previous year used more robust language, explicitly condemning the “aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and demanding a complete and unconditional withdrawal. Foreign Minister Jaisakar aptly remarked, “Bali was Bali, New Delhi is New Delhi,” signifying the evolving dynamics of diplomacy.
Prime Minister Modi specifically emphasized India’s desire to become the voice of the Global South. Another notable achievement was India’s successful push for the African Union’s inclusion as a permanent G20 member. This strategic move reflects India’s commitment to representing the Global South, considering the African Union’s growing significance, representing 55 states and a quarter of the world’s population by 2050.
The recommendations enshrined in the New Delhi Declaration hold the promise of fostering “One future” if diligently implemented. Initiatives such as the Green Development Pact, Climate and Sustainable Finance, Financial Institution Reforms, and Gender Equality are vital objectives that benefit both developed and developing nations. The declaration made significant strides toward addressing climate and sustainable finance concerns by advocating for a robust replenishment of the Green Climate Fund. It underscored the imperative of securing $5.8 to $5.9 trillion by 2030 to support developing countries in fulfilling their Nationally Determined Contributions.
Nevertheless, the question lingers: Can the G20 New Delhi Declaration genuinely usher in “One earth, one family, one future”? In the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the G20 witnessed a convergence of positions between Western nations and Russia-China, aligning with India’s aspirations. However, Western nations may face domestic scrutiny for their approach toward the war in Ukraine at the G20 meeting. While India may have achieved diplomatic success with the G20 Delhi Declaration, the core issue between Western nations and Russia remains the war in Ukraine. In my opinion, India has no interest in becoming a mediator between Russia and the Western nations to find a solution to the war in Ukraine. Without resolving this conflict, India will not be able to bridge the gap between Western nations and Russia in a true sense.
Even though PM Modi has been trying to become the voice of the Global South, China is far ahead of India in Africa. The truth is that “funds are power” in the Global South. If India and other Western nations fail to provide funds in the Global South, then India’s dream of becoming the voice of the Global South will remain unreal. In the BRICS meeting, President Xi Jinping emphasized industrialization in the Global South, which implies more infrastructure projects. Now it will depend on how far Western countries are willing to go in the context of the Global South.
The absence of China’s President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in New Delhi raised eyebrows. Recent developments, such as the joint commitment by President Xi and Prime Minister Modi to resolve border issues during the BRICS meeting in Johannesburg and China’s release of a controversial map laying claim to Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin just before the G20 summit, have added complexity to India’s diplomatic agenda. Post-G20, the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, under the Ministry of State Security, accused India of ‘sabotaging’ the G20 for its own interests. This underscores China’s unease with India’s deepening ties with Western powers. The “No Limit Partnership” between China and Russia is a concern for India, prompting a closer alignment with the West. While the G20 confirmed the centrality of the US-India partnership to the US Indo-Pacific strategy, it is evident that New Delhi may have to face difficult national security issues with Beijing. As India approaches elections, Prime Minister Modi’s firm stance on China is expected to persist.
Achieving Sustainable Development Goals and addressing climate change concerns are paramount priorities, as agreed upon by all member countries. The real challenge lies in translating these goals into tangible actions on the ground. As witnessed with the Paris Agreement on climate change and the challenges related to it, the G20’s aspirations must not remain mere objectives.
Clearly, Western nations aspire to strengthen their ties with India. At the same time, India plays an important role for the Global South and the Russia-China bloc. The diplomatic success of the G20 New Delhi Declaration has bolstered India’s position in this increasingly polarized geopolitical landscape. The key challenge for New Delhi will be to navigate its relations with China while bridging the divides in the world’s power dynamics.
Of Game of Priorities
Following India’s moon mission, the Chandryan-3 safely landed over the moon, triggering questions and debate among scientists, political pundits, and laymen of Pakistan, as Pakistan has never been on a moon mission. However, whenever one of the twin nations or even a younger nation makes any achievement or progress in any field whether economic, social, political, or diplomatic, it raises questions for the other country, such as Pakistan and India. Besides, the humongous discrepancy between the global north and the global south also poses questions about why one is progressive and the other is not. The success of developed, developing, and least developed countries is always pregnant with some distinct decisions, so is their fruit. Simply put, only the priorities of a nation can make it or destroy it. Developed and developing countries engineer different priorities that result in different outcomes.
Each country designs its priorities accordingly. It’s the reason Pakistan lags behind in the global race because the world’s developed or most developing countries prioritize the economic and social well-being of their people, whereas Pakistan’s top priority is her security, which consumes most of its budget, leaving other sectors on the verge of destruction, despite the fact that Pakistan is replete with a myriad of natural and human resources. Resultantly, Pakistan undergoes the same fate of backwardness even in the 21st century.
Despite consuming most of Pakistan’s budget, the security challenges remain alarming in some border areas of the country. However, the internal security challenges have been tackled almost successfully. The security agencies failed to terminate the insecurity in the country completely even after two decades of war with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). As per the research, armed group attacks in Pakistan increased by 79% during the first half of the current year. Basically, the terror-related incidents peaked in 2013. The average was 4 attacks per day, and as a result, nearly 2700 fatalities had taken place. Similarly, the terror-related incidents didn’t stop but ebbed over time. Pakistan’s priority, even regarding tackling terrorists or insurgents, is ineffective. Crushing militants is impractical since Afghanistan is an all-weather safe haven for them. Whenever the Pakistani military attacks them, the top brass of the TTP relocate to Afghanistan. So it is totally difficult to end terror-related attacks and insurgencies within Pakistan, if Islamabad does not find a constructive approach to deal with them. There are two ways to exterminate them. Firstly, there must be a truce under the umbrella of Pakistan’s constitution. Secondly, if the previous doesn’t work, Pakistan must get a clear stance from Kabul to curb their safe havens for TTP top brass and then take actions accordingly. Apart from this, it is equally difficult because the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban belong to the same ethnic group.
Previously, the ceasefire between the banned outfit and Pakistani officials could not bear reasonable fruit; instead, spared her time to amass weapons and organize order within the outfit, which in consequence, can be far more dangerous than it used to be. So, it is better to keep everything in mind before making any policy regarding this. Comparatively, no developed country places as much emphasis on security. If anyone pays attention to security, it comes with economic benefits, as demonstrated by the United States. The secure environment also provides economic opportunities. Also, only working on other sectors but security can bear no fruit because in an uncertain situation, no business can grow.
Apart from this, in every budget statement, economic development is prioritized, but the allocation of the budget and the practical approach differ. Key indicators of economic development are deemed Gross Domestic Production (GDP), a low poverty rate, low inflation, human development, etc. However, Pakistan’s performance in each is noncompetitive with even regional countries. Our birth partner, India, occupies the 5th largest economy in the world, whereas Pakistan occupies the 46th largest economy as of 2023. The poverty rate is 37% in FY 2023, as per the World Bank, which is higher than regional competitors; the inflation rate has crossed 30%; and human development is equal to none.
Where the global players’ key focus is economic growth, creating multiple job opportunities, balancing demand and supply, increasing purchasing parity, decreasing or even exterminating current account deficits, and terminating dependence on essential imported goods, Pakistan compellingly, through flawed policies, relies on imports even for essential consumable items, which creates a current account deficit. Mainly, Pakistan’s problem lies in the current account deficit. Low exports burden Pakistan’s current account, which accelerates the prices of consumable items and results in cost-push inflation. Besides, expensive imported raw materials and a higher interest rate increase the production cost of domestic products, which discourages local producers and further burdens Pakistan’s current account by importing those goods. On the contrary, developed or most developing countries encourage local production of essential items instead of relying on costly imports.
Also, the black economy of Pakistan adds to the problem because it is unaccountable and doesn’t come into the tax net, thus reducing revenue. The black economy includes a wide range of illegal activities such as corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, and underground and concealed economic activities from the eyes of the government. The black economy of Pakistan is estimated to be worth billions of dollars, and it’s increasing rapidly. As per surveys by many organizations, the black economy is going to be worth trillions of dollars. If these economic activities come under the tax net, strengthening Pakistan’s revenue and proper expenditure, Pakistan will be among its top global competitors.
Additionally, Pakistan’s salt mines and coal resources are the second- and third-largest globally. Pakistan ranks fifth in terms of the country’s greatest gold resources. Pakistan’s copper is one of its most abundant natural resources, and the country ranks seventh in the world in terms of its amount. Despite being rich in terms of natural resources, their improper use renders Pakistan a poor country. Negligence towards the proper utility of natural resources is one of the major contributors to existing economic woes. If natural resources are prioritized and contracts are provided to local companies instead of international ones, more than half of Pakistan’s problems will be resolved. As local companies will hire local engineers and workers that will provide employment, hence increasing purchasing power and impacting poverty.
Apart from this, the most prioritized issue among developed nations is the social well-being of their denizens. For this, their key focus remains on education, an effective health care system, life expectancy, nutrition, empowerment of vulnerable groups, quality of employment, quantity of free time, availability of clean water, cost of living, and gender parity.
But, the education system in Pakistan is in the worst condition. It is mainly based on theory, an outdated syllabus, incompetent teachers, and an unfriendly learning environment where students are not encouraged, leaving a few institutes. Our literacy rate stuck between 60% and 65%, not even crossing 70%. But when it comes to learning ability, the rate even decreases. However, global competitors have garnered even more than a 90% literacy rate. Not to mention others, even India and Bangladesh have surpassed Pakistan in adult literacy rates. Apart from that, Pakistan has established universities, but scarcely have they managed any slots even among the 500 best universities in the world. Consequently, Pakistan’s graduates remain unable to compete globally. In contrast, India’s MIT and IIT are fully competing in the global race. Since technology is the future, India has culminated at a higher level, but Pakistan is too far away. As they have occupied key positions as CEOs in top tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many more.
Besides, the health care system in Pakistan is also not up to par. As per the world population view, Pakistan is ranked even after India, Bangladesh, Iran, and Ecuador. This is a matter of concern for Pakistan. Since it’s one of the fundamental rights of denizens of a country, this sector too must be focused and invested in. However, the world’s countries invest hefty amounts of their resources in their health care and health research because a healthy individual contributes constructively to the well-being of society and brings about positive change.
Apart from this, Pakistan is also behind the eight ball in life expectancy, nutrition, empowerment of vulnerable groups, quality of employment, quantity of free time, availability of clean water, cost of living, and gender parity. Apart from being fundamental rights of the people of a country, these are the indicators that show the development of a country.
To encapsulate, the priorities of a nation play a crucial role in shaping its future. If any country prioritizes anything other than the basic rights, social well-being, and economic growth of the country, the kismet of that country remains in the doldrums. So, Pakistan too should reset its priorities and put into action their words so that Pakistan can be a global player and equally confer each basic right and facility on its citizens.
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