By Frances Bulathsinghala
The democratic values of the American people will prevail over attempts at reversing the core principles of that country, a senior Pakistani defence and international trade expert said here last week, taking stock of the multilateral issues concerning the current world order from the lens of both the economic as well as the judicial.
Ikram Sehgal, a former military officer and a senior Pakistani defence expert who has serves as a Director of the EastWest Institute (EWI), a US-based think-tank among several other key international institutions, elaborated that Islamic countries could depend on the goodwill of the people of the United States as well its judicial system to ensure that racial discrimination is not institutionalised.
In an age when regional and global relations are held firmly by trade and industrial relations between the corporate sectors in the world, whether it be in the SAARC region or other parts of the globe, individual countries would find it economically disastrous to follow an isolated closed door policy triggered by petty race based fears, he said.
An expert on international and regional matters, Sehgal feels that the current conflicts of ideology in the West, spearheaded by policies of nationalism by the United States, would pave the way for China to emerge as a world leader drawing upon itself the mantle of globalisation, a once-upon-time un-thought of role for the communist nation.
Having set up his business chain in 1977, specialising in trading, and establishing the Pathfinder Group in Pakistan, which includes two of the country’s largest private security companies, Sehgal is also affiliated with the World Economic Forum (WEF), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the WEF Global Agenda Council (GAC) for counter-terrorism.
“I am a military-man and I have always believed that any war has to be fought as a last resort and that this last resort has to be taken seriously. But I believe equally strongly in peace and the emphasis on peace and winning human trust after a conflict is over,” Sehgal said in an interview.
“Countries cannot survive with narrow policies that look at human resources and trade from a racial lens,” Sehgal stressed and speaking on the post Trump scenario in the United States maintained that he was not surprised at the protests seen soon after the inauguration of President Trump, referring to potentially the biggest single day of protests in American history where a virtual human sea flooded airports to voice their dissent against Trump’s executive order banning refugees for 120 days and travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days.
Sehgal’s comments come in the midst of continuous and ongoing protests of diverse nature within the United States that range from a realm of sectors which include trade and technology and the use of advertising as a form of dissent such as the Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial (which has to date become one of the most viewed online ads) while the ‘Trump resistance’ of thousands of employees of the global technology sectors such as Google and Netflix has displayed how technology that brings the world together is dependent on world unity and cooperation to fight threats such as terrorism.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook openly declared his sentiments against President Trump’s executive orders on immigration policy stating that the need to keep the country safe should be done by focusing on people who actually pose a threat.
Describing himself as ‘a good Muslim taught by Texas nuns in a Catholic school in Pakistan (then, East Pakistan), Ikram Sehgal reiterated that the inherent values inculcated in the United States over the years by activism through movements such as the civil rights movement and the feminist movement of the 1960s, should not be under-estimated.
He also maintained that the core principles of the American constitution could not reverse the long path of democracy that the country has paved for itself in the past years.
“We have already seen how the American legal system has prevented the travel ban. I certainly do not think there will be possibilities of institutionalising water boarding and torture as stated by President Trump. The basics of the American constitution do not support torture,” Sehgal stated.
“Within days of his presidency President Trump has distanced himself from many other Western countries who uphold democratic values. If he continues with the kind of foreign policies that he has started initiating, Trump will be defeated within the United States itself,” he opined.
Meanwhile, focusing on the South Asian region, Sehgal, a strong advocate for business and industrial relations to be used as a harbinger of peace in the currently troubled time in the world, feels that the full potential of SAARC is not used to further its collective good to improve the economy and thereby the lives of the South Asian people.
“South Asia has its share of conflicts, mainly between India and Pakistan, but what we can see is that whatever the problems, the corporate sector continues to forge its ties through trade. We can only imagine how trade and prosperity would flourish within South Asia if its nations resolve to settle outstanding issues in the region, such as the issue of Kashmir and the conflict over sharing of water resources between India and Pakistan,” Sehgal said referring to the ‘Indus Waters Treaty’ brokered by the World Bank in 1960 but which has fractured with time, with India alleging that Pakistan is supporting cross border terrorism and Pakistan alleging that India is not adhering to the treat on water sharing.
Analysing the South Asian economy as a ‘complementary economy’, where the production of one particular item would need multiple resources from different South Asian countries, he feels the same for the global economy.
“If we look at trade relations between nations, we could well say that the whole world is a complimentary economy which cannot afford racism. But if we specifically focus on South Asia, we certainly cannot afford conflicts with each other because we are dependent on each other for economic cooperation. In South Asia specifically what we have is definitely closely connected complimentary economy, where for the manufacturing of one product you need to have several resources which are found in the region,” he stated and described the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, set up to bring about improvement in the business environment in the region, as a virtual keeper of the sanity of the India-Pakistan cold war.