South Asia in 2010: Rise of the Asian Giants

New Year celebrations

With a new year upon us, the imminent challenges faced by Afghanistan and Pakistan are becoming increasingly important. Yet a new and immensely powerful set of global trends are recreating unprecedented opportunities in this region not seen since the apex of the mighty Silk Road. In fact, this geographic area is now at the very center of global economic forces that may alter the political and economic landscape of the entire region.

The rise of China and India as world powers is now inevitable. These two giants are projected to surpass the U.S. GDP by 2035. The world’s economic epicenter is moving from the West to Asia. Power shifts of this magnitude between states and regions are very rare indeed. Some have referred to the rise of the Asian giants as the most important event in human history in the last 1,000 years, comparable only to the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution.

Recognizing the reality of this tectonic shift towards Asia will need to be at the center of any current strategies for the Afghanistan and Pakistan region.

Predicting the future is a hazardous task. However, three items come to mind for 2010:

  • The current U.S. and NATO strategies for the region of Afghanistan do not take into account the phenomenon described above. The security situation in Afghanistan will not improve if the strategy is not primarily focused on a long-term, sustainable development effort to create a mechanism that improves the lives of the Afghans and makes the local authorities accountable to its people by generating revenues from the nation’s productive means and, by extension, representing them.
  • The fragility of the state of Pakistan is perhaps the only other regional issue of even greater importance. However, without the opportunities that wider regional opening and cooperation present to the great nations of the region – including China, India, Iran and the Central Asian countries – true stability will be hard to achieve. Alas, any rosy predictions about Pakistan in 2010 will be proven wrong.
  • China’s ascendance to world economic domination is all but assured. China will overtake Japan as the second largest economy in 2010, growing more than 9% while Japan’s economy will shrink by 3%. In 2010, the U.S. economy will struggle at about 2%, with unemployment above 10%, the highest in three decades. China’s rise not only as a global economic juggernaut but as the future political and military powerhouse in the region of Afghanistan and Pakistan will further consolidate.

Masood Aziz is a former Afghan diplomat in Washington, D.C.  This essay is part of the 2010: A Watershed Year for South Asia web forum, a collection of expectations about the greater South Asia region in the coming year.

Media Coverage:

2010: A Watershed Year for South Asia

Photo: Reuters Pictures.

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