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
economy.

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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Understanding the language of silence

Daily: Pakistan Today
Date: 11.10.17

The army is speaking through the language of silence. Perhaps, this is the most offensive
statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) through its spokesperson
Director General (DG) Major General Asif Ghafoor at an ISPR arranged press conference
in Islamabad on October 5. When the ISPR is speaking, the army need not to speak
through any language of silence. Nevertheless, when the ISPR is speaking, the army is
breaking its silence. By the way, Pakistan army is not known for observing any silence.

A few days ago, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Afghanistan and held meetings
with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. In the wake of his visit, there took place a meeting of
the Corps Commanders in Rawalpindi on October 3. The ISPR was supposed to inform the
public about the outcome of the visit and the way Pakistan army looked at the emerging
situation in Afghanistan. Instead, on October 5, the ISPR remained focused on the political
domain which was not the realm of the army. The ISPR went awry. The strategy of the ISPR
is now obvious. Read out a statement to seek relevance and then open the house for
answer and question. This session is now the linchpin of ISPR’s activities. Contrived
questions are asked to offer answers publicly not otherwise mentioned in ISPR’s press
release. This is how the statement remains military oriented whereas the question and
answer session becomes political.

During the question and answer session of the press conference, Major General Ghafoor
commented on three major areas.

First, in the context of the recent conflict between the Minister for Interior and the Rangers,
Maj-General Ghafoor said, “Sometimes it happens that the police ask the Rangers for
assistance, and they [the Rangers] take action. When the NAB court had its first hearing,
there was some trouble when the former prime minister was appearing for his hearing. A
letter was subsequently written to the Rangers, and there was some coordination in the
night as well, so the Rangers reached the court at 7am [on Monday]”. This is a wrong
answer. On the first hearing by the NAB court, there was no such trouble which could have
invited the attention of the Rangers to take upon itself the duty of guarding the NAB court. It
was the duty of the city administration to gauge the nature of trouble and make pre-emptive
arrangements for the next hearing. Similarly, it is known that the police does not ask the
Rangers (verbally) to assist and the Rangers are not supposed to comply with the request
or the orders of the police. For instance, in Punjab, it is the police that are resisting the
relevance of the Rangers against criminals of any type. The police are of the opinion that
the justification of their presence in Punjab would be over the moment the Rangers offered
a substitute. This is the level of inter-uniform rivalry that the Punjab police do not want its
space to be monopolized by the Rangers. Space once lost is lost forever. Nevertheless, it is
now on record that the SSP Operations Islamabad did not make any direct request to the
Rangers to assist the police.

Second, in the background of the same conflict between the Minister for Interior and the
Rangers, Maj-General Ghafoor said, “No institution, including Pakistan Army, is beyond the
supremacy of Pakistan. Even chief of army staff would have been stopped by Rangers if he
had tried to enter the Judicial Complex without [security clearance] card.” This is another
wrong answer. The ISPR is overlooking the fact that one of the basic principles of (the
subject of) public administration is that the institutional behaviour remains domain specific.
That is, change the domain, change the behaviour. It is not that the public has to change
themselves as per an institution, it is that the institution has to adapt itself as per the need
of the public. This is why during the martial law, the army projects itself as an institution
most concerned about democracy. All military dictators take pride in introducing local
bodies into the national political domain. The Rangers knew well that they were being
deployed in the civilian domain and their behaviour should have been changed accordingly.
Similarly, the Rangers knew that they were not around the NAB court to meet any chief of
army staff but politicians. On the other hand, the Minister for Interior was not a trained
soldier or an army general to follow certain protocols known exclusively to the Rangers.
Instead, the Rangers had to know how civilians work and how to be acceptable to civilians.
The Rangers failed to do so. The Rangers set an example of inefficiency and
incompetence: the Rangers are not yet trained enough to work in the public domain.

Third, in the background of the same conflict between the Minister for Interior and the
Rangers, Maj-General Ghafoor said, “If a soldier is doing his duty and is told not to allow
irrelevant people. It is possible that someone who is not carrying a [authorised personnel]
card is [in fact] a relevant person, but Rangers personnel do not know this. We need to
appreciate the personnel for their [commitment to their] duty.” This is another wrong
answer. Maj-General Ghafoor made a deliberate attempt to divert the attention of the
attendees. He laid an unnecessary focus on the personnel to save the person in charge of
the Rangers. Who was the officer in charge of the Rangers? Who ordered the Rangers to
lock the gate from inside? If the uniform force such as the Rangers was there without any in
charge, it was an example of irresponsibility: the personnel of the Rangers are left on their
own and hence are uncontrolled and unaccountable.

Generally speaking, it is not only that there are present certain sycophants attending ISPR’
s press conferences to ask questions of ISPR’s choice to offer the ISPR a leeway to
comment on political developments in the country, it is also that the ISPR itself is inclined to
speak on national politics. Whereas it is now known that the ISPR holds its briefings on
army’s operations, it is also known that the ISPR avails itself of the opportunity of speaking
on national political developments through its question and answer session. Press briefings
on military operations are just a formality, the session after it is the real objective. In short,
the ISPR has been using the guise of military operations to comment on the (political)
domain not meant for the army.

The ISPR should avoid promoting the culture of planted questions. On the occasion of the
first visit of General Pervez Musharraf to Washington after 9/11, he held a meeting with US
President George Bush. Both came out to issue a joint statement. In the question and
answer session, President Bush snubbed a Pakistani female journalist publicly for asking
planted questions. The world around cannot be duped into believing that questions asked
are original. Unfortunately, the ISPR is always ready to respond to politically loaded
questions, whether or not asked by its own cronies.

To the utter dismay of the ISPR, no one is fearing any martial law in Pakistan. The age of
martial law is over. The foremost challenge to a military dictator is not to run the country but
to run its economy. A martial law dictator has to have the company of a Shaukat Aziz to run
the country’s economy. Nevertheless, what most Pakistanis are fearing is that the mistakes
committed by the ISPR will boomerang on them as well. The past offers a testament to this
phenomenon.

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