|Easternisation of the world
Daily: Pakistan Today
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.
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|Pakistan's Afghan problem
Daily: Pakistan Today
India and Afghanistan are the two major beneficiary of mounting trust deficit between
Pakistan and the US. There was time when Pakistan enjoyed American nearness, the
facility available no more.
Pakistan might have been successful in securing a guarantee from the US for not extending
any role to India in Afghanistan other than economic, but Pakistan is overlooking the fact
that, in the post-2001 phase, it was India’s economic investment in Afghanistan’s
reconstruction contributing to the India-Afghanistan and India-US bonhomie. Moreover, in
his recent visit to New Delhi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that Afghanistan would
not be part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) unless Pakistan provided
trade access to India as well. The Afghan President raucously demanded access of
Afghanistan to India through Pakistan. Afghan President also gave an ultimatum that
Afghanistan would not offer Pakistan access to Central Asia. Afghan President also
accused Pakistan for providing sanctuaries, logistics, training and ideological basis to those
attaching Kabul and said that Pakistan had to make a choice. Afghan President welcomed
the new role of India in Afghanistan and a conditions-based approach of the US in the
region. The speech of the Afghan President tells two things. First, Pakistan has failed to
entice Kabul. Second, Afghanistan value its relations with India.
Pakistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Khawaja Asif thinks that the time has come to make
the US fix the allegation of its failure in Afghanistan on anyone including Pakistan and that
Pakistan should not be made a scapegoat for the failure of US strategy made by its army
generals. Asif does not know that it is still premature to say if the US was looking for
scapegoats or not as the failure or success was not the point of discussion. As per the
bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the US, the latter is allowed to
operate and stay in Afghanistan till 2024. In fact, Afghanistan is a multilateral reality.
Afghanistan has not developed its physical infrastructure to the point it can sustain itself
independent of any external factor.
Pakistan seems to have been looking at Afghanistan through its archaic ethnic glasses and
not any political criteria. From the perspective of Kabul, there are two immediate needs.
First, to develop infrastructure, the area where India is helping Afghanistan. Second, to
suppress the Taliban insurgency dissuading it to taking over Kabul, the area where the US
is helping Afghanistan. Within this context, Pakistan is considered frustrating both the
needs of Afghanistan. That is, Afghan President said that Pakistan was geographically
hindering the road link between Afghanistan and India (through Wagah-Attari border). The
reference here was to the India-Afghan transit trade route. Second, Pakistan was offering
some sort of sanctuaries to the Afghan Taliban who were attacking Kabul and the US forces
The present situation in Afghanistan has developed over the years. In his speech on
February 26, 1999, former US President Bill Clinton hinted at the threat coming primarily
from amorphous dangers, the term reified subsequently into non-state actors. Clinton
remained instrumental in squashing the amorphous danger spawning in Afghanistan, but
he avoided sending his troops to Afghanistan to crush the menace. From 1996 to 2001, the
time when al-Qaeda thrived in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, the US was in the
know of its presence. At that time, attack on the outposts of the US in various parts of the
world were the reflection of the presence of al-Qaeda anywhere in the world including
Afghanistan as its operational centre. Remoteness of Afghanistan and the sovereignty of
Afghanistan must be the two reasons for the hesitation exercised by the US to intervene in
Afghanistan. George Bush (junior) who witnessed 9/11 happening got infuriated at the
audacity of al-Qaeda operatives to attack US mainland. It was already known to US policy
(defence and foreign) makers that there was present a strong ethno-political link between
the Taliban reigning over Kabul and Pakistan. What saved the skin of Pakistan was that
Pakistan had been an active ally of the US since 1950s. The war on terror broke out but
Pakistan was given a status of respect by the Bush administration. Former US President
Barack Obama had to violate the leverage and announce his Af-Pak strategy (not policy) in
March 2009 to dwarf the regional size of Pakistan and to equate it with Afghanistan. The
strategy included Pakistan’s tribal areas into Afghanistan for operational purposes. At the
operational level, the US preferred not to drop his soldiers on the ground but the US
preferred to sniff out more and more al-Qaeda operatives and their Taliban supporters
from the tribal area of Pakistan. As always has been the case, war helps create new
technology. Missile-laden drones are the biggest achievement, which has helped the US
forces not only to save lives of their fellows but also to eradicate al-Qaeda operatives.
During the Bush regime, the focus of attention of the US was mainly al-Qaeda in the tribal
area of Pakistan; however, during the Obama regime, the focus turned towards the Taliban
operatives (i.e. Afghan Talibans) active in the tribal area to disrupt the Kabul regime. With
the elimination of al-Qaeda, the US might have felt itself safe and this was one of the
reasons for departure of the US forces from Afghanistan in 2014. However, the next
challenge is how to sustain the Kabul regime against the onslaught of the Afghan Taliban.
To meet this objective all help is extended to Kabul to withstand the terrorist threat posed
by the Afghan Taliban.
The arrival of US President Donald Trump not only increased the level of disrespect for
Pakistan but also the level of threat. The Trump regime has shown signs of abandoning
Pakistan in case Pakistan does not help stabilize the Kabul regime by eliminating the
Afghan Taliban surviving somehow under its umbrella. This is the latest war of tug between
Pakistan and the US. Presently, the US is reminding Pakistan of the billion dollars Pakistan
received and consumed in the name of its national security. In his meeting with Rex
Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
assured the US delegation that Pakistan was not sabotaging the war on terror nor had
Pakistan abandoned it. Pakistan provided a list to the US delegation to eliminate the
operatives of and hideouts of the Tehreke Taliban Pakistan which has taken refuge in
Afghanistan. The US might take it as a counter-offensive to its claims of paying Pakistan
billions of dollars to augment Pakistan’s defence. The soothing aspect is that Pakistan has
agreed to help Afghanistan experience a peaceful political settlement of its internal matters
including a dialogue between certain groups of the Taliban and the Kabul regime.
In fact, it is the protraction of the conflict in Afghanistan taking its toll on Pak-US relations.
Before the US delegation, Pakistan showed its weakness by taking refuge behind the
presence of millions of Afghan refugees on its soil offering a sanctuary to those attacking
Kabul. Nevertheless, one thing is getting clearer that the definition of safe heavens might
be different with the US from what is being understood by Pakistan. The US is focusing on
Afghan refugee camps as a supply depot of militants attacking Kabul, whereas Pakistan
looks at Afghan refugees on humanitarian grounds and hence has shown its inability to
take any action against them. Apparently, it seems that the patience of the US is running
out. Trump wants action either by Pakistan or by US forces including missile-laden drones.
The base line is this: any attempt by the US to hit an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan is
bound to bring disaster to Pak-US relations.
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