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  • Aug 4th, 2018
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Neo-liberals and globalists, on the other hand, differ on issues of borders. Hyper-globalists, mostly belonging to economics, anthropology, information and business sciences as well as some academics have published on this topic for example Fukuyama 1989, O'Brien 1992, Guéhenno 1995, Ohmae 1995, Badie, 1995, Latour 1996 Friedman 2005). Some of them had prophesied 'the end of both history and geography as near'; borders, in their view, would ultimately disappear and humanity live in a 'global village', a 'post-modern and de-territorialized' hyperspace created by the processes of globalization where tyranny of distance is overthrown. No longer, it is claimed, will we make sacrifices to Greek Terminus - the God of boundaries - and spaces of place will be replaced by the spaces of flows. In addition, liberals of all stripes consider borders as a source of inconvenience, impediment - although even diehard liberals cannot deny that societies require categorizing and compartments to create and maintain order (Houtum 2005, Kolossov, 2005).

Some even argue that the increasing inter-connectedness and inter-dependence between places and regions marks not the end but the beginning of geography. For a geographer in this so-called 'borderless world' there is no business like border business.

Till very recently, continuing globalization has had its effects. With an increasingly integrating Europe, the nature of borders has altered. There is now a distinction between inside, or secondary borders, and outside borders, the first generally being softened and the latter hardened. New border regions are emerging, also at the fringes of the European Union. The traditional function of borders, to create barriers and to contain, is in some cases replaced by a bridging function to enable contact.

Border securitization, in view of the globalists, also affects individual rights, privacy and confidentiality. The sharing of information by intelligence agencies and links between different control networks or databases easily elude democratic control; in Europe, the Schengen Information System (SIS) has been criticized for its "democratic unaccountability."

Combined with increasing flows of goods, people and information as a result of globalization defining border regions and borders have become a more difficult task. The meaning of borders has to be reframed and rediscovered. The sovereignty and territoriality of the state is not threatened but transformed by these processes; no longer is the state the primary actor, nor does its power and influence stop at the border. We are witnessing a change from government to governance issues and borders offer a useful prismatic lens on this changing shape of governance.

Borders also receive critical scrutiny as they are unevenly permeable for different groups depending on origin, citizenship, material situations and socio-professional background; they are thus inevitably related with discrimination and social injustice. For instance, the growing closure of EU external borders is compared with 'legalized apartheid': 'the law of birth' determines the people's mobility across the world.

The meanings of borders are constantly changing, the more borders are crossed, the more they are reproduced along other dimensions, ranging from the cultural to the symbolic. It is the challenge of the border scholar to collect these narratives and to interpret them and to show in what way these narratives represent the different functions of a border. These narratives can be individual, but also exist at group-level. The borders, in a historical, geographical and psychological process, are still in the making.

The 9/11 and 2008 financial crises demonstrated two impressive paradigmatic shifts: from drawing an optimistic perspective of a "borderless world" or "Europeanization" of national borders to a focus on re-bordering, fencing and increasing securitization.

New technologies have marked the transition in bordering logic from securing territories and borders to securing and filtrating flows. These technologies are erasing the difference between borders and internal regions and are transforming all state territories in a "reticular" borderland. Paradoxically, technological progress sometime doe not facilitate human mobility but creates obstacles to against trade, pluralism and rabid nationalism; this populism of a negative kind is now being peddled by some leaders to allow sealing of borders such as Hungary, Poland and Austria and some other European countries. This affects human rights and raises moral and ethical problems. Populism and rabid nationalism were a contributing cause of WWII.

Controlling terrorism by building fences and walls could at best partially help but is like barking up the wrong tree. A discreet, healthy balance of regulation and opening up of borders is the ultimate answer to Pakistan's increasing isolation and bedeviled economy. This requires savvy diplomacy, better border control mechanism, and, above all, political resolution of outstanding neighborly disputes and adroit crisis management - if regional connectivity is to be desired in an increasingly interdependent world where geo-economics is overtaking geo-strategic considerations.

CPEC is not meant to be as mere Sino-Pak transit corridor but a means to promote wider regional development with wider ramifications. Admittedly, it is important to guard borders against terrorism, illegal migrants and refugees, yet, trade, commerce and capital flows are doubly important and cannot be ignored. Ergo, a discreet balance has to be struck for deriving maximum benefits and gains. Only thus, the wider aim of CPEC as the much touted 'Game changer' will be realized.

Needles to repeat that inter-connectedness cannot be realized without taking the bigger picture; after all, CPEC is not a stand-alone mega-project to be seen as a panacea for Pakistan's increasing isolation and mounting politico-economic woes. Much beyond that and importantly, early normalization of relations with immediate neighbors and relaxation of border controls warrant a radical rethink for national well-being.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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