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Why we can't afford Pakistan to fail

"The time for lighting candles at Wagah border has long since passed" - quips Veer Sanghvi in his latest article in the Hindustan Times. He argues that we now need to shun our 'friendly neighbour policy' towards Pakistan and embrace the military attitude of "hit back every time we are attacked". 

Veer is correct from the Indian perspective - with the Taliban hovering on the borders of Islamabad - the Military and government have lost control of the country and we are soon going to deal with a loose group of multipolar infidels in our neighbourhood who neither understand nor heed 'international policy and neighbourly ties'.  However, looking beyond the limited view of India - Pakistan is a democratic experiment which the world cannot afford to fail. 

In the multicultural word today, International politics is more like politics in a democracy - while the rich and powerful rule the roost, minorities and weaker sections also have their say. A majority of the world - across communities (religious or ethnic) - have found their voice thanks to the intermingling of people across the world. So you have Asians countries as well as Asian people voice for their rights as countries and as a community across the world. Same is true for most other communities.

Parts of the Islamic world, which is one of the most integral parts of the cultural fabric of the world today, however face a problem with this integration.

A quick study reveals that most Islamic countries are Presidential (15), Semi-presidential (7) or authoritarian republics .  Quite a few are monarchies - most of them being the oil rich states of the Middle East. Amongst those which are democracies - only Malaysia and Bangladesh recognize Islam as their state religion, all others are Secular. (I am discounting Iraq here because its democracy is reasonably young and not yet proven stable).

Of the 5 countries which are officially Islamic States, only 2(Iran and Yemen) are democracies (notably, both are Shiaite).  One Mauritania is controlled by the Military - the other two remaining states are Afghanistan and Pakistan; of these Afghanistan is a young  state and its future is intertwined with that of Pakistan today. And Islamabad is already gloomy under a besieged Presidency, ineffective parliament and its woeful citizenry is clueless as to what is happening. 

What does the above analysis indicate - simply that there are very few countries where Islam and democracy co-exist and hence, it is very difficult to determine what do the "people of the Islamic world" desire. The view of Islam (or Islamic states) that gets presented internationally is either of extremists (those of failed states or anarchies), dictators(heads of Presidential republics or military ruled states) or Royalties, none of whom represent the people. Wherever we do hear people views, they mostly come from Muslims livings in secular havens like India. 

So, at the end of the road - there is little if any representation given internationally to the common Muslim man living in the Islamic world, who in terms of numbers represent near to one sixth of the world's population. What does s/he think of Sharia - may be s/he thinks its just but may be s/he thinks its unjust. What does s/he think of Islamic Banking or for that matter about global warming and economic recession! 

How can the world then function effectively if we have no representation - direct or indirect for one fifth of humanity? It is equivalent to not adding a country as big as India to the international community. 

This is the reason why we cannot afford the new democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan to fail. But in order for these democracies to succeed, we need to set an example in success of the same concept in Pakistan. 

When it was created, Pakistan was probably one of the few Islamic nations to have a functioning democracy. However, continuous deterioration of political systems, constant intervention of military rulers and high levels of corruption among democratic leaders has created a failed example for the rest of the world in Pakistan. This is indeed the inspiration for the likes of Taliban to further their own claims about the fall of neo-democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

If we allow Pakistan to fail, we open the road for many more failures to occur - and these failures will further reduce the representation that the average Muslim gets in the world, which can only mean that the world will be poorer by 1/5th in its diversity. This would lead to a lot many repercussions like rise in militant tendencies among this section of people which will feel unrepresented and resultant rise in social unrest across the world.

The success of Pakistan and its democracy along with those of Iraq and Afghanistan is key to a more balanced, just, peaceful and hence progressive world. How it must be achieved (for force or diplomacy) is another subject - but the world cannot afford Pakistan to fail! 

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