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South Asia

An evolving great game for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

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Sri Lanka is currently reeling under its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 and the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of the civil war in 2009. Here, however, I look at how India and China try to extend their influence on the island in entirely different ways.


Sri Lanka is regarded as Asia’s oldest democracy in terms of universal adult suffrage, dating back to 1931. But, unfortunately, for twelve years in the last two decades, the island has been under the authoritarian grip of the Rajapaksa family who lead the country to the brink of bankruptcy and the people of Sri Lanka are now paying the price for the manner in which they used their democratic right of voting. The island is also referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ due to its geostrategic importance.

Being a small island country in the Indian Ocean with a population of only 22 million, Sri Lanka always try to balance its ties with the two large regional rivals – India and China. Even though India is the island state’s only immediate neighbour, the far-away China has been vying for influence in the island for a long time now.

The southernmost point of the island of Rameshwaram in India’s south-eastern coast, a place named Dhanushkodi, lies only about 27 km from the town of Thalaimannar in Sri Lanka’s north-western coast. As per Hindu beliefs, Lord Ram’s Bridge (the ‘Rama Setu’) once stood in between these two points, and now it’s visible from the sky only as a chain of under-water limestone shoals. Scores of Sri Lankan refugees are now taking the same route and are arriving at the shores of the India’s Tamil Nadu state in rented vessels and fishing boats to escape the current economic and humanitarian crisis that the island is currently reeling under.

Buddhism, a faith practiced by over 70 per cent of Sri Lankans, came from India, the land of its origin. The northern and eastern parts of the island have an added history of falling under the rule of India-based Tamil kingdoms in the medieval era and even today have a significant proportion of Tamil population, one of the two major ethnicities in Sri Lanka, along with the majority Sinhalese.

India’s navy continues to be the first-responder and net-security provider throughout the region, including in Sri Lanka, delivering medicines, vaccines and other essentials even via its warships during the pandemic and even during the ongoing crisis. All these facts underline that no country is historically, geographically and culturally close to Sri Lanka as India is, yesterday and today.

The subtle advent of the Chinese challenge

In the last decade or so, India’s traditional ‘sphere of influence’ in its immediate neighbourhood in South Asia and the Indian Ocean is faced with a challenge from an unwelcome actor lying hundreds of miles away, who likes playing a disruptive role in the regional balance of power dynamics. China has been strongly employing its enormous economic resources to eclipse and undermine India’s role in the region, and thereby in Sri Lanka, which is strategically located in the crossroads of sea lanes in the Indian Ocean.

Since the mid-2000s, China has been pumping in money in the form of easy loans and investments, and has been funding infrastructure projects in the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009) between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist Tamil militia group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended after 26 years of fighting. But, the Sri Lankan society still remains divided with the rise of Buddhist majoritarianism and continuing discrimination against the Tamils. In the post-war years, the war-torn country was badly craving for reconstruction and recovery. China astutely cashed in that necessity.

An increased Chinese footprint in the island could also jeopardise India’s naval superiority and interests in the Indian Ocean, where Sri Lanka is strategically located. In 2014, two Chinese submarines and a warship visited Colombo port, raising alarms in New Delhi as it had an immediate consequential bearing on India’s strategic interests.

During the final phase of the Sri Lankan Civil War, India took a stance of delivering only non-lethal weapons, owing to the Tamil question, while China supplied necessary arms, thereby winning the trust of the ruling Rajapaksas, who were instrumental in winning the civil war. This was when China began to win Sri Lankan public trust, but it happened at the cost of India.

The Tamil question and India’s UNHRC dilemma

After the civil war, the Sri Lankan government was charged with allegations of committing war crimes against innocent civilian Tamils. To counter them, Colombo moved a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2009 explaining that it acted only to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of the country. India supported this resolution, despite the Tamil question, keeping China in mind. But, this was faced with huge domestic backlash, especially from the Tamil Nadu state leadership and the diaspora, which forced India to vote against Sri Lanka in the U.S.-drafted resolutions of 2012 and 2013 on the issue.

At the same time, China backed Sri Lanka in rejecting this resolution by stating that it amounted to interfering in the island’s internal affairs and that it could affect the ongoing post-war reconciliation process. This was a favourable turning point in China’s relations with Sri Lanka. In 2014 and 2021, however, India abstained in UNHRC resolutions that held the Sri Lankan government accountable for its malign role in the civil war, thereby taking a diplomatically balanced stand.

The consolidation of the Chinese geostrategic challenge

In the meantime, China had become Sri Lanka’s largest import destination and trading partner by 2016, and today its largest creditor as well. In 2017, the Sri Lankan government leased the port of Hambantota in the island’s southern coastline, overlooking the Indian Ocean, to a Chinese state-owned company for 99 years, causing strategic insecurity for India, as the prospect of the port getting militarized in the future, under Chinese control, loomed large.

This is considered as part of China’s larger ‘String of Pearls’ strategy to subvert Indian interests in the Indian Ocean by taking control of strategic port facilities in certain key littoral states and islands such as Djibouti, Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. The Hambantota port is poised to be a key transit point in China’s ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’, which is part of the broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive trillion-dollar, inter-continental infrastructure and connectivity project led by China. The Chinese are also involved in the Colombo Port City mega-project, which is dubbed as the ‘future Dubai’ of South Asia.

The shuttle diplomacy

Earlier this year, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi visited Sri Lanka, where he proposed a forum for Indian Ocean island states and asserted that no ‘third party’ should interfere in China-Sri Lanka ties, in a clear reference to India. While the Indian foreign minister Dr S. Jaishankar also visited the island to assure India’s support to the island, took part in a summit meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and called on Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. By the way, Sri Lankan Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa visited India in March, this year. Such official visits are also seen from and to the Chinese side as well.

Since the beginning of this year, India has offered more than $2.4 billion in lines of credits and currency swaps at different levels to support Sri Lanka, in addition to facilitating arrangements under the aegis of SAARC and the Asian Clearing Union. Despite this, Sri Lanka still relies on Chinese credit to loosen its foreign debt burden. In the past two years, ever since the pandemic began, China has offered about $2.8 billion as ‘financial support’ to Sri Lanka.

Contrasting maritime outlooks

Even after having knowledge about Colombo’s financial constraints and poor repayment capacity, Beijing continued to channel billions of dollars as quick loans, lines of credit and one-sided investments in Sri Lanka without following due procedures, while it was actually intended to gain strategic leverage over India by entangling the island in a ‘debt-trap’, the most abominable form of chequebook diplomacy.

This is the same strategy that Beijing is employing elsewhere in the ‘Global South’ countries, particularly in the African continent. In contrast, India’s engagement in the Indian Ocean region is summed up in the inclusive maritime doctrine of ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ (SAGAR), which was unveiled in 2015.

However, it is true that India has found it difficult to catch up with the Chinese in this new ‘great game’ for relative influence as it has a number of structural constraints in terms of expediency in bureaucratic functionality and delivery. However, it needs to be stated that Sri Lanka reached this abysmal point in its economic history not only because of its dependency on Chinese finance, but also due to a combination of domestic factors, such as sheer misgovernance, corruption, and nepotism.

Panning out the current crisis

Today, people in Sri Lanka are facing a shortage of food, fuel and other essential commodities. Power blackouts and inflation became a new normal, and the people are out in the streets protesting for the removal of the current regime from power. Data show that forex reserves dipped 70% in the past two years and foreign debt more than doubled in the ten years from 2010 to 2020, and the situation further exacerbated during the pandemic.

For the first time since independence, last month, Sri Lanka announced that it would default on all of its external sovereign debt, amounting to $51 billion, after running out of forex reserves. The country now badly needs a debt-restructuring plan with hopes of a bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). New Delhi and Beijing have also stepped up their efforts to save Sri Lanka from complete bankruptcy.

This unprecedented crisis began to manifest at least two years back and intensified towards the end of 2021. The government ignored the early indications and, in fact, made it worse. The current majoritarian and populist regime of the Rajapaksas took a series of blunders and policy mis-steps since they came back to power in 2019, which requires another essay’s column space to explain in detail.

The Rajapaksas also happen to be heavily pro-China in their outlook since the concluding phase of the civil war. Even though Sri Lanka’s economic trouble predates the current regime, it was during their first stint, amid the civil war, that the government availed massive loans from China to invest in various projects leading to an increase in the build-up of Chinese clout in the affairs of the island. India still has persisting concerns on the treatment of Sri Lanka’s Tamils, many of whom still awaits justice for the war-time atrocities committed on them by the government and continues to be under constant surveillance.

The way ahead for Indian diplomacy

Turning a blind eye on China’s efforts to make further economic in-roads into Sri Lanka will have serious strategic repercussions for India in the near future. India should continue to collaborate with Japan and other like-minded countries to offer joint projects in Sri Lanka as it is with the case of the Colombo Port’s West Container Terminal development project. India continues to be the most approachable country for Sri Lanka even in these challenging times.

This crisis reminded Sri Lanka of the perils of unchecked loans and brought the genuineness of ‘seemingly liberal’ Chinese loans into question. It is highly likely that the current crisis may further push Colombo to the Chinese side, particularly if India, Japan and the West do not adequately address Sri Lanka’s concerns. Being geographically the closest, India has to take the lead in stepping in and offer sustainable solutions to prevent such an eventuality, and a permanent Chinese naval presence in its backyard is not something it wishes to see. India’s robust private sector can also contribute in this building economic resilience in the island through bona fide investments, particularly in the sectors of Information Technology, heavy industries, urban infrastructure, and consumer goods.

Moreover, regional platforms sans China such as the BIMSTEC and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) have to be utilised to offer sustainable economic, developmental and technological alternatives to Sri Lanka, and most importantly, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) needs to be rejuvenated to ensure prompt and collective response to issues of regional importance and to support each other members in times of crisis. It would also serve as a counterweight to Chinese aspirations and recent moves to form alternative regional mechanisms that could further undermine India’s role in the region.

It is getting clearer day by day that a drastic power transition is underway in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region in the past decade and the relative positions of India and China in those dynamics vis-à-vis smaller countries will have far-reaching consequences for regional peace and stability.

Bejoy Sebastian writes on the contemporary geopolitics and regionalism in eastern Asia and the Indo-Pacific. His articles and commentaries have appeared in Delhi Post (India), The Kochi Post (India), The Diplomat (United States), and The Financial Express (India). Some of his articles were re-published by The Asian Age (Bangladesh), The Cambodia Daily, the BRICS Information Portal, and the Peace Economy Project (United States). He is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi, where he acquired a post-graduate diploma in English journalism. He has qualified the Indian University Grants Commission's National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET) for teaching International Relations in Indian higher educational institutions in 2022. He holds a Master's degree in Politics and International Relations with first rank from Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, Kerala, India. He was attached to the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs (Government of India) in New Delhi as a research intern in 2021 and has also worked as a Teaching Assistant at FLAME University in Pune, India, for a brief while.

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South Asia

The G20, the Global South and India

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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.

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South Asia

The G20 New Delhi declaration: Is “One future” possible?

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Image source: X @narendramodi

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.

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South Asia

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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