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NUST-CSIS Joint Seminar on US-led International Developments and Effects on Pakistan and the Region
Start Date 
7/30/2015
End Date 
7/30/2015
Venue 
NUST, Main Building
Introduction

The Global Think Tank Network (GTTN) at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, organized a joint seminar on 30th July 2015 in collaboration with the visiting team of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a premier Washington based Think Tank. Distinguished citizens, diplomats, bureaucrats, academics, researchers and students attended the event. Mr. Daniel F. Runde, William A. Schreyer Chair and Director, Project on Prosperity and Development at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C., and Dr. Rifaat Hussain, Head of NUST Public Policy Department, spoke on “The U.S.-led International Developments and Effects on Pakistan and the Region.” President GTTN Mr. Amer Hashmi conveyed the closing remarks and Senior Fellow GTTN Humayun Gauhar - a public intellectual and a prolific writer - moderated the session. 

Other experts who attended the event were Dr. Muhammad Akram Sheikh (Professor Emeritus NUST), Governor (Retired) Owais Ghani, Ambassador Riaz Khokhar, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Ambassador Sarwar Ali Naqvi, Dr. Shoaib Suddle, Dr. Asad Ali Shah, Dr. Ashfaq Hassan Khan, Dr. Sania Nishter, Dr. Tughral Yamin, Minister Farzana Yaqub and many other eminent personalities. The session encompassed the fall-out of current world geopolitics, its implications for Pakistan and the region at large, and a pragmatic approach to manage challenges. The participants achieved a general consensus of resolving Pakistan’s indigenous challenges through self-reliance, efficience governance, performance and accountability.

Discussion

The U.S.-led international developments and effects on Pakistan and the region were gauged through different paradigms. The American participant in the seminar was upbeat about Washington’s relations with Islamabad and was of the view that the U.S. considered Pakistan as a strong potential partner rather than a problem. The expert from Pakistan examined the significance of the U.S. as an unmatched global power and the manner in which its worldwide development pursuits have influenced the over all geopolitical and geostrategic order. 

The session revolved around the current political and technological clout of the U.S., which contribute to its position as a comprehensive super power. The U.S. by far holds a supreme position in its unmatched global reach, as the main locomotive of global growth and as the leader in cutting-edge innovation, and enjoys the cultural appeal for the youth that has no parallel in history. The speakers also touched upon China’s emergence on the global development scene that has essentially shifted the center of gravity.

The guest speaker underscored the huge potential of Pakistan that is world’s sixth largest country and double the size of California. He pointed out the contradiction in the reality about Pakistan and the image that was being portrayed by the international media. The U.S. according to him saw Pakistan through a unique lens and considered it to be a “choice partner and good partner,” and this was termed as an “alliance by choice,” similar to the one between Pakistan and China. Pakistan was seen to have all the necessary ingredients to be a success story very soon and become the next Columbia or Indonesia – countries which have tactfully transformed their state structure through serious reforms. These reforms helped Colombia – a borderline failed state in the 1990s – tackle the menace of terrorism, violence and the resulting security challenges, thus improving its investment climate and flows. The sovereign government, military and civil society reframed the security issues through consensus. That is why the Colombian economy is on the rise today and is a great international tourism destination.

In the case of Pakistan, similar reforms through consensus are required in order to tap into the country’s vast potential. Owing to the military’s successful steps to curb militancy, the security situation was seen as a turning point for Pakistan. The revival of democracy and improvement in the economic indicators are notable advancements.

Pakistan’s recent partnerships with China were said to be landmark developments and a wake-up call for the U.S. The expert observed that China included Pakistan within the loop of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as an opportunity, and the U.S. should replicate similar practices of including Pakistan more into the sphere of development.

The prospective China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was considered to be a watershed for Pakistan’s socioeconomic sector. The project’s potential to attract and plug in the American investors in Pakistan’s emergent markets was highlighted. Many positive trends as regards Pakistan’s development sector were a precursor to the country’s present highest rate of urbanization in South Asia. The shift in developmental focus and decline in agro-investments had adversely affected Pakistan’s GDP.

The speaker was of the view that Pakistan was the only country in South Asia with sixty percent of its population under thirty-years age group, which could be a demographic dividend. The guest speaker advised to consider the country’s youth bulge as a blessing and not a disaster and to engage them in innovative scitech activities like the best practices being followed by China and Japan.

In the above context, it was reinforced that the U.S. intented to enhance good relations with Pakistan, improve the pace of dialogue and interaction and invest in the country. The U.S. – it was told –as already assisting Pakistan in higher education, science and technology, agriculture, infrastructure, vocational training and many other sectors. The speaker foresaw a different Pakistan in next fifteen years, with massive infrastructural development and an enlarged economic activity.

The current government’s policies and wise decisions thus were thought to be instrumental in reforming the country and achieving the political and economic stability. The guest speaker’s punch line was that dealing with the burning issues of corruption, training of civil servants, devolution of power from urban to rural areas and improvements in tax regime would set Pakistan right on the development track. 

There were deliberations upon the strategic dimensions of the U.S.-led international developments and their impact on the South Asian region, with a reference to the oft-observed views about America’s decline as a super power. One speaker positioned his argument against this mantra by providing valid evidences of the growing American strategic aspirations and capabilities. According to him, the end of the Cold War era witnessed the formation of a unipolar world order followed by reduced threats for the U.S. vis-à- vis Russia. Other major American rivals were also appeased – Japan being a noteworthy example, which readily accepted the U.S. security umbrella at the end of World War II. 

It was observed that even today, all the efforts of the U.S. were solely centered on gaining more power momentum through the influx of nano-technology, unarmed systems and vehicles, and modernization of space technology. These steps were seen with a suspicion because they not only had given an impetus to the U.S. military power, but also nearly eliminated the chances of full-scale wars through reduction in expected traditional security threats. The nature of warfare in future, it was implied, would therefore not be based on air, naval or other military means but will be “network centric.” It was noticed that currently the U.S. is the largest arm supplier in the world with strong implications for South Asia, as India is its largest arm importer in this region. 

The U.S. led developments in the region, and the sprouting conventional imbalance which is likely to raise Pakistan’s security stakes, were some of the buzz themes of the event. Various phases of the growing Indo-U.S. bilateral relations – from the foundation stage to the nuclearization of South Asia – were discussed, though mostly with a pinch of salt. The strategic balance between Pakistan and India was inferred as the relative capability to achieve their respective strategic objectives in relation to the other. Three predictions were made regarding India’s offense dominated posture towards Pakistan: first, war is more common when the conquest is easy, or is believed easier than in other periods; two, states that have or believe they have offensive strength or defensive vulnerabilities will initiate more war than the other; and three, a given state will initiate more wars when it has larger offensive opportunities and less defensive vulnerabilities. Thus, the implications of the Indo U.S. strategic partnership matter when India hopes to win the U.S. support for its future wars with Pakistan whether they are through the Cold Start strategy or a large-scale contingency plan.

The speaker threw light on the long-term repercussions of India’s strategic breakout in the wake of the recent U.S.-Iran nuclear deal. Some other questions like Iran’s future behavior with regard to Afghanistan and IndoPak relation were also put on the table for the learned audiences to ponder upon. The speaker concluded that imagining an emergent regional condominium in South Asia was not difficult in case the American-led world order was not challenged by its rival hegemons, as the otherwise ensuing Indo-U.S. alliance could be easily inferred. This scenario left no other option for Pakistan except for being highly alert and sensitive about its eastern neighborhood.

With regard to the emerging and dynamic development trends in Pakistan, NUST’s contribution through its knowledge ecosystem was highlighted. GTTN’s goals and efforts in furnishing viable policy options for issues of national, regional and global importance were also appreciated. NUST National Science and Technology Park was lauded for winning the official candidacy for hosting the 34th International Association of Science Parks’ 2017 World Conference on Innovation in Islamabad. NUST is just one step away from winning it in voting sessions to be held during the IASP 2015 Conference in Beijing coming September. All friends of Pakistan were urged to help NUST win the event, which has full potential to be a game-changer for the country’s sustainable development.

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