Pakistan left behind as Asia forges ahead

Pakistan left behind as Asia forges ahead
China's President Xi Jinping (L) and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa interact during a meeting at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo

India has just inked a set of agreements with Vietnam.

Earlier this month, Shinzo Abe of Japan became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Bangladesh, a tour that included a stop in Sri Lanka.

He brought along with him an entourage of 22 Japanese businessmen looking to do business in both countries.

And this weekend, China's president Xi Jinping concluded a visit to the Maldives, where amongst other engagements, he contributed a written piece to a local newspaper that talked of a 21st-century "maritime silk road", and said, "China welcomes Maldives to get actively involved" in building this trade corridor.

He then headed for Sri Lanka, where the maritime silk road is already in substantial evidence, with a Chinese deep sea port as a key factor in a sea lane that connects Southeast Asia with the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Japan this past Saturday, meeting Shinzo Abe and giving him his own message of "come, build in India".

Both sides agreed to set up a dialogue process involving their foreign and defence ministers to create a long-term, sustained process of cooperation on strategic and economic concerns.

Soon the Chinese president will sit down with Modi in discussions that will touch on the sources of tension between these two giant economies, as well as the wellsprings of opportunity that exist.

A Sri Lankan diplomat, observing the whole round of meetings and summits and state visits taking place around Asia all month, described it as a "complex tapestry of relations" that is being woven in the region ever since India's new prime minister was elected.

Asia has been abuzz with activity throughout the month so far, weaving itself together, talking, building and positioning its assets and relationships in a complex multi-player game that is all but set to emerge as the dominant theatre of Great Power rivalry.

There is much tension across the region. A festering border dispute and suspicion of each other's motives animates much of India's relationship with China.

In the rest of Asia too, rising China inspires as much trepidation as it does awe.

Now consider what Pakistan has been busy doing since last month: indulging in political bickering, listening to scathing speeches with little purpose, and making hardly any attempt at a solution.

For decades now, we have remained mired in conspiring against each other as a globalising world has raced ahead.

Now, as globalisation draws to a close and a new world dominated by regional trading blocs begins to take shape before our eyes, we still remain busy in scuffles and speeches and point-scoring.

At some point this behaviour must end. At some point we must learn to respect the rules we have laid down for ourselves, learn to demarcate our interests into strategic, political and economic domains, and pursue each separately.

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