While the west focuses its energies on the war in Afghanistan, its neighbour and key ally in the war on terror is sliding towards a financial and security breakdown. Pakistan’s economy despite experiencing decent growth in recent years is in serious trouble and it has submitted a request to the IMF for emergency funding. Its currency is in free fall, inflation has rocketed and according to Nawaz Sharif, it is going through the worst crisis in its history. Pakistan is a nuclear power and its descent into lawlessness would be a disaster for the rest of the world especially if the heavily armed tribal areas of the north decided to take matters completely into their own hands or openly forged alliances with the Taleban and Al Qai’da militants in the country.
Contrast Pakistan’s predicament with India’s which despite its religious tensions and social difficulties has economically powered ahead not just of Pakistan but many countries in the west. Its growth forecast has been revised down to a still formidable 7.5% for 2008 and despite facing economic difficulties in recent months; it is still in an envious position compared to Pakistan.
While the unwelcome challenge for Pakistan is to try and stabilise its economy and deal with increased militancy, India faces a different set of challenges such as dealing with the concerns of poverty for many of its citizens and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Both countries gained their independence at the same time and while India has enjoyed democratic governance, Pakistan has been ruled by military personnel for a large part of its history. It is difficult to predict when and how Pakistan will get out of the current mess but what it must not do is revert to type and return to military rule which would see it fall further behind her more powerful and prosperous neighbour.