AS the D-8 summit was held in Islamabad yesterday, people were wondering what the many supranational groupings of which Pakistan is a member have achieved over the decades. The most glaring example is that of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation which was formed in Dhaka in 1985. Saarc has done little that can be considered a step towards greater economic and cultural cooperation among the member states. Unfortunately, despite yesterday’s adoption of the D-8 charter and pledges to work for closer economic ties and peace, democracy and tolerance, this grouping too, has little to show. Established 15 years ago, D-8 has done nothing except hold periodic conferences, even though the member-states are rich in human and natural resources. The eighth summit brought together five government heads, while Bangladesh, Egypt and Malaysia chose to send their representatives. Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s absence, apparently because of differences with Islamabad, was understandable — though regrettable. Mohamed Morsi’s decision not to attend was also disappointing. Many people were looking forward to a visit by Egypt’s first democratically elected president. But the presence of some charismatic personalities — including Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — aroused hopes that the delegates would follow up on their pledges. Together they represent a billion people, who want results and not empty rhetoric.
For Pakistan, it would appear as if holding the conference itself was an achievement. The moot was held against a background in which Pakistan suffered some recent foreign policy setbacks: Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled his visit, while the Indian government refuses to change its stance on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promised visit to Pakistan. While the Russian and Indian decisions were related to geopolitical issues, let us note that foreign sports teams, too, are reluctant to visit the country for security reasons. In fact, most D-8 participants, at one point or another, have had to contend with religious and other forms of militancy, while some continue to face this challenge. This shared, though unfortunate, experience should bind these countries in an endeavour to act more decisively against violence and to take steps to tackle the militant mindset.