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“I exist therefore I am”

The world is changing at breathtaking speed. Wonder what it will become? Pakistan should learn from the successes and mistakes of two of the most successful countries, America and China. How, after ending colonization, did they become so successful so fast?

There is a certain commonality between Pakistan and America because we are only two of four countries whose emergence was triggered off by religion. The Pilgrim Fathers sailed from Ireland to the ‘New World’ to escape religious persecution; Pakistan broke away from India for the same fear. America’s psyche, culture and society are deeply informed by religion. Whether you think Pakistan was meant to be a theocratic state or a homeland for the Muslims of India is beside the point; the fact still remains that it was religion that was the catalyst. The difference is that America has separated the cleric from statecraft and we have not.

A commonality that all three of us share is that we were all colonized at one time or another – China parceled out between Japan, Europe and America and Pakistan and America colonized by Britain. Of the three, only two have been successful – China and the USA – because unlike Pakistan both China and America fought wars of independence. Ours was a movement. Thus both have coherent ideologies: America’s is democratic, liberal capitalism where the pursuit of wealth is celebrated as is “the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” while China’s is communism where improving the human condition is at the centre and apex of all policies. Because of this clarity both were able to forge their own systems and not ape the system of any colonizer. Their systems were born out of their ideologies, their histories, their cultures and the natural spontaneity of their peoples. Pakistan’s system is born out of the British India Act of 1935. It has been unable to forge one of its own because it is still unable to arrive at a consensus about itsjustification for existence.

I don’t see the need. Once a country has existed for 64 years, it does not need to justify its existence – “I exist therefore I am” should be enough. Stop wringing your hands wondering whether “to be or not to be”. Get on with it. Drop the systems of the colonizer and forge modern, progressive ones of your own that deliver to the people.

We must learn about what led to America’s phenomenal rise to become the richest and most powerful country in history. They encouraged the pursuit of wealth: America first pre-constitution finance minister declared that what is good for commerce and industry is good for America. We should adopt that motto. It unleashed competition within, thus unleashing its best entrepreneurship. It forged an egalitarian society. It put great emphasis on education, particularly on scientific education. It instilled a great sense of responsibility in society because of which such great places of learning like the Ivy League universities came into being. They placed a lot of emphasis on R&D. They made think tanks, funded them and endowed them, mostly by the private sector, and then cut off their umbilical chords thus letting not a hundred but a thousand flowers bloom. George Washington realized that America had won the War of Independence against Britain with British weaponry. It was a great anomaly. Thus was seeded the idea of the military-industrial complex that became the engine of the US economy. What was a good idea then has become a millstone now.

Oddly enough, the mistakes that started America’s decline came in decades. The first was in 1971 when it dropped the Gold Standard and made the dollar the reserve currency and put it under undue pressure by declaring that it was as good as gold. Today it is not worth the paper it is printed on. Next, in 1981, Ronald Reagan’s coming put Wall Street in control of the US and thus the global economy. To hand over the global economy to a bunch of bankers was the second mistake. The third came in 1991 when after becoming the sole superpower the USA failed to forge a non-adversarial doctrine and started demonizing the Muslim world instead of ending the injustices against it. In 2001 came the fourth when, after 9/11, America decided to launch two wars it could neither afford nor control militarily, financially or diplomatically. Ten years on and defeat stares them in the face. America has to learn that the era of conquering territory for economic advantage is over and the era of conquering world market shares has begun. China understood this in 1979 and look at what it has become and how fast. Now 10 years are up. Let us see what great change 2011 brings.

As to China, there is no need to repeat a lot of what is already known. The failed ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the Cultural Revolution may have been damaging experiences, but through all these they managed to cleanse their society, change their exploitative modes of agricultural and industrial production and forge the country into a nation, which we have been unable to. They put the people at the centre of their policies, especially after their second greet revolutionary Deng Xiaoping opened China up first with the Four Modernizations and then with the Open Door Policy. He let loose private enterprise and initiative, but strictly and sensibly regulated. He successfully created a new ideology by merging political communism with capitalism, though not of the suicidal free market variety.

One of Pakistan’s greatest achievements was to have the foresight to be the first non-communist country to recognize China way back in 1956. Since then we have crafted a deep and ever-growing relationship with China. But for us expect China to replace America would be a mistake for reasons I cannot go into for lack of space. Suffice it to say that China will go a long way to help us, but it will not take a single steps that harms it. At the same time, we should not put such great pressure on friends that it breaks friendship.

Pakistan’s other great achievement is that it has survived for so long, albeit in truncated form. This tells you something about the resilience of our people and their incredible patience, a patience that can sometimes become irritating for it makes them take a lot of nonsense. Pakistan failed to turn its geo-strategic location to its advantage so it has become a curse upon us instead, a battleground for various powers in pursuit of hegemony.

So while it is difficult to say what scenario will emerge, it is easy to say what it should be. We should stop hypocrisy-based relations but relations based on mutual interest, not on one-way self-interest. I hasten to add that the Pakistan-China relationship is not based on hypocrisy, which is why we have never had serious problems that threaten our relationship. If the three counties work together for mutual interest in which there is something in it for everyone, great things can happen.

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