Easternisation of the world

Daily: Pakistan Today
Date: 19.03.17

The term easternisation can be understood as a phenomenon embodying the economic
rise of the countries in the east. A few centuries ago, especially in the wake of Vasco da
Gama’s effort to discover a sea route from Europe to India in 1498, the economic potential
of Asia beckoned Europeans who vied with one another for gaining a foothold on Asian
lands to monopolise raw material to feed European industrial complexes.

After the Second World War, Asia took over the reins of destiny. Japan was the first to
express its economic prosperity, followed by the second wave of opulence launched by
South East Asian countries named Asian Tigers. Both these waves espoused capitalist
policies under the auspices of the US military hegemony in the region. Nevertheless, in the
1990s, China initiated the third wave of economic sufficiency, which India joined quickly.
Generally, not only did the expansion-cum-diversification of local industry based mostly on
raw material, but also the shifting of multi-national companies to Asia in search of cheap
labour contributed significantly to the economic surge of Asia. The growth of the software
industry offered an additional benefit to all to utilise human potential contributing to Asia’s

The implied idea in easternisation begrudged by many is that it is happening at the
expense of the west or westernisation. In this regard, Gideon Rachman’s book,
Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century,” published by Penguin Random
House in 2016, says that easternisation not only reflects the dwindling significance of
European countries but it also reflects their burgeoning troubles ravaging various spheres
of life. To put this point across, Rachman writes on page 167: “The process of
Easternisation means not just that Europe no longer controls large swathes of the globe.
That has been the case for decades. It also means that Europe is increasingly vulnerable
to political, social and economic trends in the rest of the world that it cannot control – but
which pose direct and indirect threats to European stability, prosperity and even peace.”
That is, today’s Europe is beset with a two-pronged challenge: first, the loss of political clout
to reframe its calling in resource-rich areas of the world; and second, to devise a way to
stop the inflow of troubles affecting various spheres of European life. Unfortunately, when
extant, both these challenges reinforce each other.

In 1956, when the US ended the hegemony of two European powers, the UK and France,
on the issue of the Suez Canal, Europe started shrinking into its fold. In this way, the
primary challenge to the west or westernisation came from the west itself. Years afterwards,
the economic crisis that visited Europe in 2009 debunked the reality that European
authority over the world was moribund. In this regard, Rachman writes on page 167: “By
2009, when an economic crisis erupted in Europe, the age of European imperialism in Asia
and elsewhere had been over for roughly half a century…[M]ore and more economists are
giving voice to the idea that competition with low-cost producers in Asia, in particular in
China, has contributed to the European economic malaise.” In fact, Chinese cheap
industrial products undermined the residual monopoly of European manufacturing
industries and funnelled European money into the Chinese economy.

Whereas the year of 2009 can be considered the time when the existence of easternisation
became noticeable, the realisation got itself reified into more palpable results in 2014, when
China spearheading the phenomenon of easternisation surpassed the US. In this regard,
Rachman writes on page 6: “A symbolic moment was reached in 2014 when the IMF
[International Monetary Fund] announced that, measured in terms of purchasing power,
China was the world’s largest economy”. Similarly, Rachman writes on page 8: “By 2014,
China was already the world’s leading manufacturer and its largest exporter. China was
also the biggest export market for forty-three countries in the world; whereas the US was
the biggest market for just thirty-two countries. (Twenty year earlier, China had been the
largest market for just two countries in the world, and the US was number one for forty-four
nations).” In this way, in 2014, the world finally recognised the presence of easternisation.
In the post-2014 era, the world is supposed to be stretched between retiring westernisation
and mounting easternisation, whether the two phenomena are coterminous or not.

The economic challenge posed by easternisation is just one dimension of the issue. There
are two other dimensions. First, economic sufficiency cannot be seen in isolation from
political adequacy. In this regard, Rachman writes on page 6: “It is economic might that
allows nations to generate the military, diplomatic and technological resources that
translate into international political power.” Second, like westernisation, easternisation is
non-sparing in asserting its history, values and practices. In this regard, Rachman writes on
page 29: “Yet while attitudes to the West vary across Asia – between countries and
individuals – there is little doubt that a widespread process of Easternisation is underway,
as Asian nations reassert their own histories and heritages, and scrape away some of the
accumulations of Westernisation.” In fact, losing grip over economic and political affairs of
the world and getting vulnerable to crises of various types express the worst fear of Europe.

Whereas China is heading the post-2009 wave of easternisation, the US has been trying to
challenge China in the Pacific by developing a pivot to Asia since 2011 with the help of
Japan and India. The cases of Japan and India are different. Japan experienced the
humiliation of defeat at the hands of the US and later developed its economy on capitalist
lines under the supervision of US military. This relationship is more a patron-client one than
a partnership of equality and respect. On the other hand, the bonhomie that thrived
between the US and India is a post-1998 phenomenon, which expressed itself in October
2008 by signing the 123 Nuclear Energy Agreement. It is still difficult to say if India – which
is also part of easternisation – is ready for being an active frontline partner of the US in the
pivot to Asia plunge.

Back to columns in 2017
Ahmad Noorani and nationalist bigotry

Daily: Pakistan Today
Date: 01.11.17

Some Pakistanis still revel in a state of oblivion that Pakistan was not founded on a
democratic demand and process in 1947. These skeptic think that Pakistan was an
automatic outcome of the division of India, and hence any system of government can be
established in the country by hook or by crook.

Hook or by crook hogs the central place in Pakistan. Religious dogmas push Pakistanis to
one side called pan-Nationalism or pan-Islamism whereas the political dogmas sway
Pakistanis to another flank called hypernationalism and hypercentralism. To add insult to
injury, whether Pakistanis believe or not, the doctrine of necessity is still the extant subtext.
The crop of defence analysts now make appearances on every electronic media
propagating their ideals of “should” and consequently discrediting the sitting government.
The low quality of their arguments mostly steeped in conspiracy theories and parochialism
worries an educated Pakistani what they might have been doing when in service. They
unanimously – and there might be a few exceptions – invite military intervention (or a
technocratic government) under the ruse that the politicians are all corrupt and have been
looting the country which had been made prosper by military dictators. Condemnation after
condemnation of political governments to demean them in the eyes of the public and
incitement after incitement to make room for a military intervention lead to stacking
animosity against those media personnel who reveal stories which somehow buttress the
image of politicians and repudiate any excuse for a military intervention. Ahmad Noorani is
one such reporter who is abhorred for his reporting on various issues including the Panama
case. Ostensibly, Noorani is guilty of exposing flaws in the judicial process of conducting the
enquiry (i.e. the JIT), besides being guilty of revealing the link present between the higher
judiciary and the army, and exposing the flaws in the July 28 judgement.

This situation begs two important questions. First, whose is the next turn for being beaten in
broad day light by anonymous persons? Second, what stage is being set in the future to
secure which the prospective nuisances and challengers from the media are being dealt
with punitively? The thrashing given to Noorani might be about his past iniquities and
frailties but the manhandling prognosticates and foreshadows the future – to forestall the
role he could play in the future. Certainly, Noorani’s past justified his potential for the future.
The thrashing was done to neutralize Noorani in the future.

In the ongoing Karachi operation by Rangers, every sundry (“nathu khaira”) criminal has
been caught except those who attacked Hamid Mir in April 2014, if there was any local
criminal element involved. Such is the complexity of both Karachi and the state machinery
running the Karachi affairs. Consequently, Mir had to forgo his vociferous support for the
Baloch cause. Similarly, the Gestapo tactic imposed on Noorani was not only to frighten him
into stifling his voice but also to radiate a message to his ilk active in the media to be
avoiding expressing their point of view. The Gestapo was not famous for arguing and
debating a case but it was notorious for subjecting dissidents to brutal methods and torture
to muffle their voice. As is the practice in autocracy-ruled societies, dissidence itself is the
major culprit, the scalp of any dissident should be ready to abide the strikes inflicted with
iron rods.

The attack on Mir opened a new chapter in the history of electronic media in Pakistan. The
section of the electronic media, which was in the throes of survival, suddenly spurned into
action to offer a counter narrative to the attack on Mir. Afterwards, the counter narrative
expanded to feed many journalists of dubious repute and a trend was witnessed in which
anti-Mir journalists assembled on a platform to run a counter media house now branched
out functionally into many new media outlets. All of them banked on a single theme for their
survival: let out a stream of invective, vituperation and expletive, even if the channel runs
the risk of penalty or closure.

Whereas the year 2014 gave Pakistan the politics of invective and diatribe against
opponents of all hues, the year 2017 is bestowing upon Pakistan the politics of iron rods
against dissidents of all hues. In 2014, the “third empire” did not know that it was being
referred to on the roads. The ignorance was a bliss. The silence of the “third empire” spoke
volumes for its alleged involvement in sabotaging the democratic process and promoting
the anti-Mir phenomenon (as a metaphor). Everyone knew about this point except the third
empire itself.

In 2017, the July 28 judgment is a blot on the face of the judiciary. The judgement was not a
substitute for any retribution for corruption if done by Nawaz Sharif. This is no cogent
excuse that Sharif had to be removed from the power to run his cases in the NAB, as touted
by defence analysts. The judicial removal of the elected prime minister should have been
on clear convincing grounds. It is known that the July 28 judgement, a product of
incompetence and ineptitude, brought more ridicule to the higher judiciary than respect.
Why was Noorani punished for highlighting this fact?

The year 2017 also reveals that, in Pakistan, there are good dissidents such as defence
analysts and bad dissidents such as Noorani. Good dissidents are those that have already
proved their patriotic credentials and appear on TV talk shows not because of their intellect
or the power of argument but on the basis of their ranks. They are the counterpart of
religious bigots who issue religious fatwas on someone’s state of faith; the religious bigots
issue nationalistic fatwas on someone’s state of nationalism and the main retreat of their
intellect of whatever quality is the conspiracy theory. Through the national media, they are
instilling conspiracy theories in the minds of viewers. Anyone disagreeing with the
conspiracy theory is a traitor. After religious bigotry, self-proclaimed nationalist bigots are a
new challenge Pakistan is beset with. Pakistanis are still paying the price of religious bigotry
sponsored by the state in the 1980s, Pakistanis will pay the price of harangue being
introduced in recent years in the body politics of Pakistan.

Interestingly, despite their collective wisdom and behind the scene oneness, none of the
defence analysts is capable of writing a book to rebut the narrative of Hussain Haqqani.
The Memogate scandal (or the Mullen memo controversy) of October 2011 was used to
hide behind the judiciary through a writ petition in April 2012 to penalize Haqqani, and not
to jog their own memory to write a counter narrative. Intellectual bankruptcy is writ large, the
refuge of the lack of arguments lies in conspiracy theories to influence an illiterate
emotional Pakistani into action.

What Noorani has served to all Pakistanis is that he has exposed the true mishmash
existing behind the proceedings in the name of the Panama case. He has written such
stories as to help analysts reach a cogent conclusion. His effort to expose truth needs to be
appreciated. This was his duty to perform as a journalist and he has performed his duty
aptly. Analysts are beholden to the efforts of Noorani for the analysis they make and the
conclusion they draw.

Back to columns in 2017