Prospects of Pursuing Economic Diplomacy in South Asia
Alliances are regarded as the foundation of international relations and the most important strategic preference of governance. It provides the state with a strategy for enhancing its capabilities, ensuring its survival in any security-sensitive situation, and furthering its interests. Thus, alliances work to build relationships between states, whereas diplomacy is used to maintain these mutual relationships. The manner in which states pursue a strategy strengthens it even more. When it comes to conducting international relations among states with the goal of enhancing strategic objectives, economic diplomacy should never be overshadowed. The changing global scenario necessitates variations in policy tools that better meet the needs of the hour. South Asia is witnessing a fluctuating shift from geopolitics to geo-economics, with new drivers set by economic relations among states. Economic diplomacy has made it easier for states to align on a national, regional, and global scale.
Because South Asia is at a crossroads, one must be focused and vigilant in looking for opportunities that will cause it to become more involved in the global economic growth. South Asia has been regarded as the epicenter of traditional and non-traditional conflicts, political and social unrest, and economic stagnation for decades. The role of SAARC has deteriorated as a result of South Asia’s interstate conflicts, despite the organization’s regional importance. Geopolitical and geo-economics factors are the two dominant aspects that have cast a pall over the South Asian region. On the one hand, geopolitical impacts center on security and territorial integrity. Geo-economics, on the other hand, contradicts the concept and advocates for shared borders through economic means. International relations have now progressed to the point where investments, trade, and economic diplomacy can help to heal political rifts.
In relation to the preceding arguments, the economic aspirations of the Asian giant China have shaken the South Asian states. Combined with the efforts of economic masters, South Asian states have learned to lean their statecraft toward diplomatic means, leaving behind the security sensitive policies that have stifled the region’s economic growth. China’s economic policy, combined with its intended “non-intervention” policy, has provided a safe hand to the region’s infrastructure development. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which falls under the BRI framework, is seen as a game-changing project for the region. Because China wants a safe and secure route for the expansion of its project, it may have an impact on the region’s sensitive and fragile security conditions, making it a safe place for economic and social development. With the positive effects of projects and friendly coordination and cooperation between Pakistan and China, the CPEC, once operational, could be a source of long-term economic benefits for the entire region and beyond. With the positive developments, Pakistan’s political and diplomatic role toward other countries is constantly evolving. Pakistan’s political alliances, along with diplomatic relations and defense diplomacy, have paved the way for a more secure and economically stable region. Pakistan’s relations with the Gulf states are currently being strengthened, and its relations with Iran have been reinterpreted. Pakistan has also enhanced defense ties with Russia, and its relations with China have progressed in multiple domains, including defense, diplomatic, cultural, and economic relations. Iran and Afghanistan have showed an interest in joining CPEC. Two major European countries, the United Kingdom and France, have agreed to participate in this project. Turkey has backed the initiative and expressed an interest in investing in CPEC-related projects. This international gesture can be interpreted as a green light for diplomatic acceptance of the region and its trans-regional economic association.
Along with the benefits of CPEC, there are numerous other forms of economic cooperation in the South Asian region, such as the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project, which are aimed at making the region more secure, politically, and diplomatically. A more progressive gesture from Pakistan that has contributed positively to economic diplomacy is the opening of investment channels to China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Turkey. The economic success of South Asian states has enhanced not only the region’s significance in a variety of ways, but it has also altered the region’s strategic patterns. States in the region have begun to use geo-economics tools to achieve political and strategic objectives. Economic diplomacy is a comprehensive state strategy in and of itself, varying by region due to economic circumstances. In the region, the concept of geo-economics, which refers to the use of economic power for political purposes, has gained prominence. A dynamic shift towards snowballing trade and investment stakes of regional cohorts would be responsible for the reviving progress and stability of the region.
No policy determines the total benefit of statecraft unless the role of leadership is not vital to improving states’ national security and economic objectives. When transitioning from security-led policies to regional economic associations, the leadership is put to the test for its comprehensive and mature strategy. At the moment, economic diplomacy is usually linked with regional national security, as economic diplomacy plays a decisive role in neutralizing security sensitive situations that arise from the region’s fragile economy. The region’s leadership should play a constructive role in diplomatic relations spanning economic diplomacy, defense diplomacy, and social and cultural cooperation. Political and military leaders should adopt a regional diplomacy policy in order to learn how to effectively pursue international diplomacy. The region should broaden its view of globalization and diplomacy in order to benefit more, not less, from economic diplomacy guarantees. With China’s opening of massive economic rewards, global economic actors are now reaching out to the South Asian region in anticipation of the region’s transition to the framework of economic diplomacy. Each country is reconsidering its policies toward South Asia and shifting its perspective on the region from one of security to one of economic cooperation. As a result, there is no way to argue Jonathan Woetzel and Jeongmin Seong’s statements,
“In the 19th century, the world was Europeanized. In the 20th century, it was Americanized. Now, it is being Asianized- and much faster what one may think.