Our grouping with the Muslim na­tions westward and in Central Asia goes beyond survival to a life surge while in SAARC we are entombed into the secular non-Muslim lap of India.

By Tarik Jan

Should Pakistan strive for an active economic block with Central and Middle Eastern states or it let itself submerge in the South Asian Association of  Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a question calling for a review of the two options. The Indophiles have begun convincing people that SAARC should be the primary consideration. They talk of common borders between Pakistan and India, ignoring the larger fact of Afghanistan, Iran, and China of  being our neighbors also.

What is far more important, which they conveniently sideline, is the nature of such blocks and how their structure and the motives behind them could effect  member nations. This write up will address itself to these aspects of the problem.

The emergent economic blocks in the world are either political or political­ly motivated. This is obvious from their structure. In each case, with varying degrees one finds an axial power around which a block re­volves. In a sense, economic blocks are the extension of the empire era when empires sought vast landmass rich in raw material and market potentials. Again, in the empire era the mercantile class served as the bridge­head whereas the ruling élite stood behind it. In the capitalist economy, we see the repeat of the empire era: the mercantile class is seeking wider terri­tories for marketing its goods and the political will of the capitalist state is augmenting its effort.

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Talking of the axial power-centered blocks, for NAFTA, it is the United States; for the Council of Mutu­al Economic Association (COMECON), it is Russia; for SAARC it is India. Here in these three cases, the desire is power extension. Americans want to dominate North and South America; Russians seek the continuation of their old role in Eastern Europe; Indians want to recreate the old British India, if not the mythical united India.

As opposed to these axial power-centered blocks, there are other trading blocks such as ASEAN and OECD, which have come into existence to pro­tect their member states’ interests against a powerful neighboring nation – that is, Japan in Asia; and Germany, France and Eng­land in Europe. Regional grouping as such is not a meaningless modality. Its membership should be determined, among other things, by two chief con­siderations.

The identity factor: Should we be defined by our ideology or by our regional location, close to a certain neighboring nation, which does not bear with our existence?

What future shape a region­al grouping will take? If pulled inward and submerged by a structure, what will become of us?

Regional grouping is thus not trade alone; it has its own dialectical movement in addition to geopolitical ambitions of a larger axial state which the smaller member state has to measure against its own interest in the absolute sense.

A nation that seeks a trading block with others must ensure that it groups itself with nations of similar identities so that even when there is an inward centripetal pull with a corresponding political struc­ture, its merger becomes not a death embrace but a life-giving process of becoming. Fortunately for Pakistan its landmass extends on the west of its geography into uninterrupted Muslim territories which gives it land depth and access to the friendly nations of Islam. 

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Our grouping with the Muslim na­tions westward and in Central Asia goes beyond survival to a life surge while in SAARC we are entombed into the secular non-Muslim lap of India.

Added to this, one must not ignore the Indian perception about SAARC, which visualizes it as a substitute for pre-1947 British India – a template of assimilation whereby Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka would be re­shaped into a confederation. Culture and trade ties are a prelude to it.

Besides, we must realize that the unipolar world dominated by the U.S. and its allies is unfortunately not conducive to the Mus­lims. The West has decimated Bosnia and trapped it into a grotesquely cruel political setup, which instead of em­powering the Bosnians has made them destitute. Sudan has been truncated. Ghadafi Libya is gone and Iran is almost under siege. Iraq has been devastated. Afghanistan is being brutalized. Tomorrow it could be Pakistan or some other Muslim state. Muslims are no exception to the inexorable laws of history – their grouping has to be effec­tuated before they are isolated and bled white.