Sunday, May 24, 2009

National self-determination and economic viability: Pakistan

When Woodrow Wilson promoted the idea of the national self-determination for the colonised people at the beginning of the twentieth century, the same was subject to an important proviso, namely, that the resulting nation should be economically viable.

This meant that the state resulting from the exercise of the right of self-determination must be of adequate economic size to survive on its own.

The Wilson doctrine formed the basis of the US foreign policy at least until the European colonies were freed.

Over the years, the Wilson doctrine lost its proviso at least in the rhetoric of US foreign policy. This has coincided with a plethora of small nation states and an unstable world order.

The Wilson doctrine was only common sense. A nation state has the right to exist but it can only exist if it is economically viable. Therefore, only meaningful and realistic exercise of the right to self-determination can be for the groups large enough that are strong enough to compete and prosper in the world.

The so called exercise of this right has resulted in many nation states that are only nominally sovereign.

In reality these nation state are not strong enough to compete and survive on their own and most of them have acquired a de-facto colonised status.

In the era of cold war, these small nation states depended on either the USSR or the USA for patronage: political, economical and militarily.

With the USSR gone, and the USA emerging as sole super power, these small nation states have felt the burden of their small sizes.

The fate that Afghanistan and Iraq have faced is the fate that awaits other weak and small nation states.

This is stating the obvious. If you look around the world who do you see as secure and prosperous states: China, Russia, Europe, India, and the USA. In fact, I will go as far to state that these are the only sovereign entities in the world.

The implication for this for Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan is that they will never be truly sovereign with their present size or strength. These countries need to be part of something bigger in order to achieve sovereignty.

The idea of nation is not a romantic or a feel good idea. It has developed for a reason and at that a very practical reason that is, 'survival'. Smaller tribes merged themselves and 'invented' nations to survive and compete against other bigger entities.

A entity in order to be a nation must be viable. That is the only definition that puts sense in the ideal or romantic notions of a nation.

Pakistan, seriously, needs to consider whether it is a viable entity in its present status. For the most parts of its history, Pakistan relied on the USA and China for its security and economic survival. It is still doing so. Pakistan, in this world, of far bigger economic units, can never be truly sovereign.

For Pakistanis who want to be part of a great civilisation there are many options for their country stands at the crossroads of many civilisations. Theoretically, Pakistan can be part of the either the Muslim civilisations or the Indian civilisation. In Muslim civilisation choices are between Wahabism of Saudi Arabia, Shiaism of Iran and the Central Asians. In these three cases Pakistan may have to lead the pack. In other words it will have to play a role in the creation of a great civilisation which has never existed in history.

Or Pakistan can revert to sub-Continental civilisation and join in the swan song. That is perhaps a more pragmatic choice.

Historically, Punjab has inevitably been trying to create this great civilisation which was epitomized by Ranjit Singh's rise which was cut short by the British. Then, under President Zia, Punjab again flexed its muscle, this time to be pushed back by the Americans. Punjab's power house for some reason seem to be Strong enough to dominate its neighbours and but for the foreign intervention, might have by now lead to a greater civilisation with Punjab being its driving horse.

The power house of Pakistan, Punjab, should seek to lead its other provincial partners to greater and bigger things to ensure mutual survival of all.

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