Diplomats and development experts have long anticipated the upcoming Sochi Summit. The recent politicization of President Zardari’s foreign trips threatens to derail this vital meeting of the Presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Russia where comprehensive projects are on the main agenda. One thing is clear: cooler heads must prevail and President Zardari’s attendance at this Summit must be regarded as an important step in securing Pakistan’s future.
Last year’s summit, held in July 2009, was deemed an enormous success. The four countries laid the groundwork for projects ranging from hydropower plants, transmission lines and general internal infrastructure. President Zardari agreed with Russian President Medvedev, Tajik President Rahmon and Afghan President Karzai all publicly agreed that economic ties needed to be strengthened and trade had to be increased in the region. What would be better for Pakistan than to have support from the countries geographically hugging her, laying a foundation that will benefit the nation for generations?
Critics of President Zardari’s attendance should open their history books (nothing of the revisionist variety), and recognize that Pakistan can once again gain access to the old trade routes into Central Asia and Russia that were long ago closed off. Russia and Tajikistan would have access to Pakistani ports. Needless to say, when Pakistani goods are promoted, Pakistan’s economy stands to profit and there is no limit to what this partnership could achieve.
President Zardari (the man voted in democratically to be head of state) should carry out the functions of his office, attend the Sochi Summit and return with good news for Islamabad. The argument that there is no need to attend Sochi is ludicrous, and narrow-minded to the point of being self-defeating. Working with the Central Asia nations to increase trade and economy will empower Pakistani business, bolster the economy and enable profits of billions of dollars a year. The real mistake is to allow the Zardari bashers to stop Pakistan from improving relations with her neighbors.
Those countries are keen to invest in Pakistan; though presently Pakistan is mired in colossal challenges, the world sees the strength and determination of the Pakistani people. It is a testament to the Pakistani people and their courage that the Summit is happening, and there are many offers of help, from all corners of the globe. We must start with our neighbors. We must use them to fight the extremists who would kill innocents; we must make decisions that will benefit generations to come. And we must never allow politics to get in the way of honoring and governing those people. Pakistan has made enough devastating decisions in the past due to cheap political stunts. Someone has to step up and do the right thing, and it may very well be President Zardari who does so. He may have to brace himself against a myriad of attacks but in the end, it is these steps and the rewarding results they will inevitably reveal that will alleviate many of Pakistan’s problems.
Pakistanis cannot afford another tragedy. Sochi needs to happen.