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Pakistan Africa foreign policy issue

Pakistan’s foreign policy plan has a long way to go before it matures up with the perfect blend of economic policies intricately woven into the diplomatic relations. So far, the foreign policy dimension of Pakistan has been skewed towards the West, Europe, UK, USA and South Asia. Such has been the pattern, because our foreign policy is still at a fledgling stage. It desperately needs to be jolted with fresh initiatives, laced with innovative and constructive line of attack. But at the moment we severely lack any worthy think tanks. We don’t even have executable ten years road maps to align ourselves with. Our focus should be committed to a single agenda, which should be, the country’s economic interest, centered at the heart of its diplomatic relations. If we learn to operate with this single clause, our international standing will elevate manifold.

Although there is much left to be desired within this ambit, but one facet of the foreign relations which has been neglected ruthlessly, is our approach towards Africa in particular. Africa is the second largest continent of the world. It has abundant unexploited riches of minerals and natural resources and popularly termed as the ‘world’s storehouse’ of strategic raw materials. European countries such as France, Italy, UK, Belgium, Spain, Germany, and Portugal had their colonial powerhouses established in Africa until World War II, subsequent to which Africa gained independence and started to foster its socio economic and political ties with the rest of the world.

In instituting the economic interest and creating their presence in Africa, China has done remarkably well. China penetrated into the African markets with a very strategic spin. It led its State owned enterprises (SOE) to breakthrough to Botswana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Cameron, Zambia and New Guinea. The Chinese SOEs brought their expertise into the African continent by building dams, highways and stadiums. They insured that their labor was exported into Africa through development of superior infrastructure. The Chinese ushered in their technology to this underdeveloped and dark continent leading to a new dawn for them. This productive initiative on the Chinese’s part led them to etch a deep impact on the African continent which was hitherto untapped and nonexistent.

Taking a cue from the Chinese wisdom, India followed suit by hosting for the first time an Indo- Africa summit which was held largely to carve India’s footprint in the African continent in the fields ranging from Trade to life sciences. The Indian leadership committed to setting up training institutes across the continent in the field of food processing, weather forecasting, IT, education, planning and administration.

Sadly enough, Pakistan has not made any progress or headway in this regard. Although it has some scraps of diplomatic relations with Africa. The ties between the two, date back to Africa’s colonial days. Pakistan was one of the first few countries to support Eritrea’s independence from Italian colonialism and morally backed Morocco, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa in their struggle for freedom. Defence officers from Africa are still trained on Pakistani borders in our Defence schools. But having stated that, the bilateral trade between the two countries is abysmally low. It is a pitiful figure of U$450 million.

Africa, possesses all attributes to becoming a major growth pole in the coming years. It has immense potential in terms of its demographic mix. There is sizeable representation of population from the sub continental region living in South Africa and Kenya. One can also discover a lot of Sindhi speaking natives settled in West Africa. Therefore, the similarity of language and cultural practices in these groups is a massive plus and should be taken full advantage of.

Pakistan must turn its focus towards Africa in terms of parking its exports of textile, rice, semi processed goods, manufacturing etc. Our expertise in the field of banking, telecommunications, agriculture, IT, Bio-technology, alternative energy sources, water management & irrigation and infrastructure development can be instrumental in giving a phenomenal boost to Pakistan and African countries’ economies.

Our universities and vocational schools can be one of the best places for African students to come and learn modern sciences, Arts and technical subjects.  Our approach needs to be repositioned towards Africa, whereby we can cultivate greater interaction between the Parliaments of Pakistan and African states. Exchange of frequent and goal oriented visits by the leadership of Pakistan and African countries will go a long way in promoting the bilateral ties. Our business communities must take a new perspective towards African countries. It is ripe with opportunities for investment. Particularly, they have expertise in the area of tourism which our Pakistani business community can capitalize upon.

There should be continuous exchange of ideas through collaborations over seminars, trade fairs, and exhibitions, trade promotions of local products and services which are Pakistan’s forte. This will open those avenues which can be beneficial from business point of view. Presence of Ministerial commissions between Pakistan and African countries should be enhanced.

We must politically and economically engage the continent of Africa and Marrakesh area and North coast of Africa as specific targets for us. We must pull up our socks on the current lack of diplomacy and initiative on the foreign policy front- an area which our friend, Peoples Republic of China has conquered so victoriously.

It is pertinent to recap the legendary poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s solidarity with Africa in his poem titled ‘Come Africa’

Come, I have heard the ecstasy of your drum

Come, the beating of my blood has become mad

‘Come, Africa!’

Come, I have lifted my forehead from the dust

Come, I have scraped from my eyes the skin of grief

Come, I have released my arm from pain

Come, I have clawed through the snare of helplessness

‘Come, Africa!’

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