Thursday, May 11, 2006

Between Economy and Politics: A New Challenge for D-8

Going by the statistics of the economic relations among the members of the Developing Eight for the past 9 years after its establishment in June 1997, less than 4 per cent of their total foreign trade with the whole world, the up coming summit to be held in Bali on 13-14 May 2006 has resulted in some degree of pessimism in certain quarters. Questions like could this meeting boost economic relations in a tangible way? or would this meeting be just another routine meeting without any tangible results? have come up as the result of this pessimism.

Furthermore, in the world which is flat, to use the term popularized by Thomas L. Friedman, the D-8 faces a difficult choice between sticking to its agreed manifesto of sole economic cooperation and a temptation to indulge in responding to political issues that emerge between now and then among its member states. The ever-increasing interconnection between politics and economy in this globalized world has prevented the separation of economic development and political issues. This dilemma of choice is the most difficult challenge that needs to be addressed by the grouping at the earliest possible time. How?

Adopting a new manifesto that acknowledges the importance of political implications to the development of economy is, in my opinion, one most tangible answer possible to cope with this new challenge. Because by expanding the old manifesto into a manifesto that also deals with political issues, the grouping would be able to develop a new approach and design suitable framework to balance the implications of political issues on their economic development. Besides, this type of manifesto would allow the grouping to become a single entity in voicing their stand on certain political issues. In this way, their voice possesses much heavier political importance than a single voice of a developing country.

However, adoption of this kind of manifesto is certainly not without any challenge and obstacle. Even though the member states in D-8 share certain degree of democracy, but except Iran and Pakistan, the remaining member states in D-8 are not Islamic states. The Muslims in these countries, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and Turkey, practice secularism to run the administration in their countries. Homogeneity through democracy and Muslim-dominated population is very much apparent in the grouping but heterogeneity among them cannot be neglected.

Thus, for an example, if the grouping responds to an international challenge faced by one of its member states solely based on their emotional relation of being Muslim-dominated countries would only further polarized the already fragmented world. The grouping must instead formulate an approach that would contribute to the elevation of humanitarianism and not to indulge in emotional responses solely based on hatred and enmity. The ability of the D-8 leaders to come up with this kind of formula to cope with the new challenges will be of great benefit to the long-term standing of this grouping in international politics.

By understanding the global implications of political issues on the development of economic growth and cooperation and immediately adopting appropriate approach to tackle the challenge, there is a greater possibility of the D-8 member countries to utilize their trade potentials to the maximum. In other words, since politics and economy are parallel to each other, the balance between the two will be very beneficial to improve economic growth and development.

If the grouping finally decides to adopt this kind of approach by considering the importance of political implications to economic development and cooperation, the Bali Summit would certainly not only just another routine summit without any tangible result. A whole new meaning in the grouping would emerge as a result of it. Besides, if Indonesia, as the next chairman of the grouping, could bring about an initiative in this direction, I believe, there would be positive responses from different quarters due to the increasing international standing of Indonesia as the biggest country in the world with biggest number of moderate Muslim population.

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