Munir Akram, former Pakistan ambassador to the UN and columnist for Dawn, displays in his article on September 29 a growing trend across South Asia. He praises Imran Khan’s speech and diplomacy at the UN General Assembly, in terms that could be described as sycophantic: “In the person of a bold, honest and dedicated leader, Pakistan has been offered a historic opportunity to address its multiple external challenges, play a constructive role in resolving regional disputes and promote critical global objectives.”
Akram, a career diplomat, appears to believe that a “charismatic” leader offers a historic opportunity. This is how he describes Khan’s speech and what he said about Kashmir: “India’s unilateral and brutal attempt to annex occupied Jammu and Kashmir is what took the prime minister to the UN. His much-anticipated address to the UNGA was impassioned, eloquent and substantive, forcefully projecting the real nature of the BJP-RSS government, the grave human rights violations it is perpetrating in Kashmir, and the danger of a potentially catastrophic war between two nuclear-weapon states.”
But the real question is whether the Pakistan PM’s words yielded tangible diplomatic gains. On this, even Akram is unable to provide a clear answer — or at least one that can reconcile his high praise for Imran Khan with the lack of international opprobrium over India’s “unilateral actions” and “gross human rights violations” in Kashmir: “Even though the conscience of the global champions of human rights appears to be dulled by the promised profits in India’s large market, and most of the world’s chancelleries have yet to publicly acknowledge the impending threat of genocide and war between Pakistan and India, most states are concerned and desire a peaceful resolution of the crisis created by India’s actions.”
Akram also describes how Khan addressed Pakistan’s other diplomatic challenges — in Afghanistan, Iran, with the US, etc — and asks for the national and government to support the country’s foreign policy establishment.
Slowdown and Nepal
As a regional economic powerhouse, India’s fortunes have a ripple effect beyond its borders, as highlighted by the September 26 editorial in the Kathmandu Post. The editorial expresses deep concern over the dependence and, so, negative effects in Nepal from the slowdown in India. “With the southern neighbour in the midst of an economic slowdown, Nepal can expect to experience far-reaching impacts. The reason is simple: Our trade is heavily dependent on India. We import everything — from agricultural products to fast-moving consumer goods—from the southern neighbour,” it says.
Nepal is also going to be affected in terms of imports: “India also happens to be Nepal’s largest export partner too. With the Indian economy hitting rock bottom, Nepal needs to diversify its export market and the market for services alike. Products like cardamom, polyester yarn, jute goods and so on are among the major exports from Nepal to India. What’s more, many tourists come to Nepal with the purpose of visiting temples or getting respite from the scorching heat. Undeniably, India’s ailing economy will impact Nepal’s export and its economy too.”
Frustrated, the editorial hints at less dependence on an unreliable neighbour.
NPAs in Bangladesh
The editorial in the Daily Star on September 28 expresses alarm at the recent IMF report that has found that the country’s bad loan crisis is far worse than previously anticipated “According to a report published by the international money-lender, the amount of bad loans is actually double the figure presented by the Bangladesh government. This is in part the result of policies and practices that not only enable banks to mask their default loans as rescheduled loans and ‘special mention’ loans but also allow big loan defaulters to go about their business unfettered. The large borrowers have exploited the stay order by the court which has caused a large amount of this money to disappear from the CIB database, and the banks can also report them as non-classified.”
Like has been reported in India, “what is even more alarming is the fact that most of these defaulters are well-connected and influential businessmen” who believe that they won’t have to face any consequences.
The state is also sending capital mixed signals, according to the editorial: “Bangladesh Bank has issued NOCs to banks on a case-by-case basis to reschedule defaulted loans. This has sent a very wrong message to the defaulters. Moreover, the central bank’s backtracking on the principle of imposing strict discipline on distressed borrowers is sending out the wrong signal to these unscrupulous businessmen—that the banks are rewarding financial malpractice, or at the very least, bad credit decisions are being encouraged.”
The editorial asks the government to act on the recommendations of the IMF. Unscrupulous businessmen, it suggests, must not be allowed to derail the country’s impressive growth record.
A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent. Curated by Aakash Joshi