Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are three South Asia neighbouring countries, sharing common history but presenting different political and economic scenarios since beginning. Pakistan and India started its journey as independent nations 1947 ( almost 75 years old), Bangladesh in 1970 almost 52 years old. The two countries India and Pakistan soon after independence started their political and economic journey in different directions.coming from different political backgrounds and present different. Though the British Empire existed from the subcontinent 75 years ago but it left traces of political, social and economic disruptions that still echo in the fabric of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
India inherited anti colonial congress political party under the robust leadership of Gandhi and Nehru, relatively enjoys political continuity and economic stability since beginning, is on the pathway of parliamentary democracy and secularism, having no state religion or ideology. India is too on the path of economic development because it has abolished feudalism in the beginning and allocating about 5 to 6 percent of GDP for education. India enjoys constitutional supremacy and continuity since its constituent assembly adopted constitution on 26 November 1949 and became effective on 26 January 1950 and has never been abrogated nor suspended.
While Pakistan with Muslim league headed by landlords mostly pro imperial started chequered political and constitutional journey based on ideology, is experiencing the worst economic and political crisis in its history. It got its first constitution with parliamentary form of government in the year 1954 which lasted only for two years, then second constitution in the year 1962 with presidential form of government and the third constitution in the year 1973 the most abrogated and amended, with parliamentary form of political system . Pakistan has experienced chequered political system swinging from presidential form of government to parliamentary democracy and with military dictatorship for more than three decades.
Where as Bangladesh after separation in the year 1971 from Pakistan with unstable polity in the beginning coupled with military dictatorship has overcome the political and economic issues, is now one of the politically stable and economically prosperous emerging nation in the region. Hasina Wajid of the Awami League has been the prime minister since 2009; the party’s main rival, the BNP, led by Khaleda Zia who was imprisoned on corruption charges, seems to be in no position to return to power. Bangladesh is held up by many as a model of development, but as it marks 50 years of independence critics say it risks becoming a one-party state intolerant of dissent, threatening the democratic principles on which it was founded.”
Though poverty+illiteracy remains a challenge in all three but we witness stark economic progress in both India and Bangladesh. India has made remarkable digital progress, which is expected to grow to become an $800 billion market by 2030. On the contrary, despite its enormous digital and freelance potential, Pakistan is only estimated to grow by $24 billion by 2023, accounting for 6.6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. Similarly, Bangladesh’s economic growth is a tale of remarkable resilience and power strategies. According to the World Bank, “Bangladesh has become the fastest growing economy globally over the last decade because poverty has come down from 43.5 per cent to 14.3 per cent just in two decades.”
Some figures of the three countries, with their different priorities, depicts three different scenarios, must be an eye opening for policy makers and persons at the helm of the state of Pakistan.
* Interest Rate: Pakistan—13.75%, India—4.90% and Bangladesh 4.75%.
* Currency: Pakistan—210:1$, India—78:1$ and Bangladesh—92:1$.
* GDP Growth Rate 2022: Pakistan—3% (at best), India—8.70% and Bangladesh—7.50%.
* Foreign Exchange Reserves in billions of dollars: Pakistan—7, India—600 and Bangladesh—46.
Inflation: Pakistan—13.80% (however, in reality, it is much more), India—7.50% and Bangladesh—6.40%.
Pakistan defence budget 2022-23 , PKR. 1. 53 trillion (USD7. 5 billion). The allocation is a 12% increase over the original military expenditure in 2021–22 and a 3% increase over the revised expenditure last year of PKR1.
Bangladesh has announced a 2022–23 defence budget of BDT. 400 billion (USD. 4.2 billion), an increase of 7.7% over the revised expenditure
The budget of science and technology for India is about INR150 billion, equivalent to about Rs400 billion, whereas the budget of the Ministry of Science and Technology is less than Rs4 billion in Pakistan. Taking the six-fold population difference into account, it should be at least Rs65 billion. Similarly, university research budgets are an average of about Rs15 million ($ 70,000) per year for equipment, chemicals, maintenance and research salaries.
On the political and social front, free speech and a free press are under attack in all three countries of the entire region. Arrests and harassment of activists and journalists is perhaps common to all three countries. The more democratic dispensations in India and Bangladesh (compared to Pakistan) have not led to more democratic structures such as freedom of speech. In Bangladesh, too, press freedom has been under attack. But unlike Pakistan, both India and Bangladesh are doing well economically and political stability is going from strength to strength.
All three countries are members of the SAARC but it is redundant because of political disputes amongst the member states particularly Pakistan and India over Kashmir issue. Kashmir is claimed in full by India and Pakistan and both rule parts of it. The region continues to be at the heart of two of the three wars fought by India and Pakistan since independence in 1947. The relationship between the two countries further deteriorated when India through amendment of article 370 in the constitution has amended a law in Jammu and Kashmir allowing Indian citizens to buy land in the disputed territory. Pakistan apprehensions and criticism about a steady erosion of the rights of Kashmiri people is justified. Now there is complete trade embargo from both sides since then and both are paying enormously in economic and political terms, particularly Pakistan in the wake of recent devastating floods and economic meltdown.
The roadmap for India and Pakistan is to compromise through engagement and dialogue. Since both countries are nuclear powers therefore both sides should set aside territorial disputes that need time to resolve (Kashmir, Siachen Glacier, and Sir Creek). Instead, India and Pakistan must cooperate on trade ties, cross-border terrorism, and climate change. It is not a quick way to reach an agreement but a dependable one. For the last seventy-five years, the deep-set hostility between India and Pakistan has posed a grave danger to peace and security in South Asia. The troubled relationship has cast a long shadow over a vast region facing abject poverty, extreme deprivation, and the prospect of nuclear Armageddon.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearbook 2022, Pakistan has 165 nuclear warheads compared to India’s 160 warheads. The yearbook states that India and Pakistan appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals and continue to develop lethal weapon delivery systems despite the fact that both India and Pakistan already possess sufficient nuclear weapons to ensure a robust, largely stable mutual nuclear deterrence.
All three countries must cease hostilities and freeze their political disputes for a decade at least particularly India and Pakistan and consume their energies and resources for political stability and economic well-being of the poverty stricken peoples of the region. Specially in Pakistan, all stakeholders in running of government affairs, head of the institutions, politicians, media houses, academia’s, businessmen, social activist and intellectuals must put their heads together and start grand national dialogue for addressing the constitutional, political, social, economic and climate challenges facing to the nation with out further loss of time.
Sher Khan Bazai, Former Secretary Education, Balochistan, Pakistan