November 25, 2011
The recent developments between India and Pakistan germinate optimism about the improvement in their bilateral relations. The increase in trade, certainly, improve people to people contact and create a strong group, which constructively contribute in lowering the tension and building trust between the belligerent neighbors.
The current positive trends in the diplomatic relations cannot be sustained for a longer time without adequately addressing the chronic disputes between India and Pakistan. Admittedly, Kashmir is complex issue; its solution will take time. But both sides are in a position to address the other solvable issues such Siachen and Sir Creek boundary line.
Pakistan is very keen to restart the Composite Dialogue with India, which was suspended by the Indians in November 2008. The Indian leadership is very much determinant to punish the perpetrator of 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. It has been pressuring Islamabad to act firmly against the Jammat-ul-Dawa and Lashkara-Tuyyaba. Whereas, Pakistani Interior Minister, Rehman Malik had reiterated on numerous occasions that Islamabad is very much determinable to punish the executors of Mumbai carnage provided the actionable information is shared by the New Delhi with Islamabad against the alleged groups and individuals. At the same time, the people of Pakistan do demand the proper investigation and punishment of the executors of Samjhota express.
The Foreign Minister announced that the government has decided in principle to grant India the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said at her weekly media briefing that “the cabinet gave the ministry of commerce the mandate to take the process of normalization forward, which would culminate in the observance of the MFN principle in its true spirit.” It is a right step in the right direction to decrease the animosity between the antagonist nuclear weapon states.
Importantly, India granted similar status to Pakistan in 1996. But the non-tariff barriers of India have prevented the Pakistani commodities export in the Indian market. The trade record between India and Pakistan in the recent years reveals that balance of trade is in favor of India. For instance, Pakistan has allowed 1,946 items to be imported from India. Conversely, India allows nearly 850 items to be imported from Pakistan. Moreover, it was reported in the press that the trade between the two countries was $1.4 billion in the year 2009-10. Of these, Indian exports to Pakistan stood at $1.2 billion, while Pakistan exports to India were a mere $268 million — clear proof that India had not opened up its market for Pakistani goods.
The Pakistani observers have expressed their serious concern on India’s non-tariff barriers. The Commerce Secretary, Secretary Commerce Zafar Mehmood stated “the entire trade liberalization process is linked with the removal of non-tariff barriers” by India. He is correct, if the Indians do not show flexibility and maturity on the non-tariff barriers, the primary purpose of granting most favored nation’s status would be negated.
The government’s announcement to grant India a MFN status kicked off a debate on the subject in the Pakistani media and public. The opposition party in the National Assembly expressed its reservation on the government’s announcement to grant India MFN status in the near future. Several members of the Parliament, most notably National Assembly Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had opposed the move, citing Pakistan’s historical animosity to India due to the dispute over Kashmir.
In the November 2011, meeting between the commerce secretaries in New Delhi both sides had shown seriousness to establish visa liberalization regime to increase the connectivity between. The visa liberalization is on both states agenda since long. The both sides’ intra-state conflicts, however, hinder the visa liberation plan’s implementation by New Delhi and Islamabad.
The recent meeting between the Prime Minister Gilani and Manmohan Singh on the sideline of the SAARC Summit in Maldives has also created a better impression regarding bilateral relations. Though they referred these developments as writing a new chapter in India and Pakistan relations, yet we have to see the tangible response from New Delhi to the Islamabad positive initiatives.
To conclude, the improvement in India and Pakistan relations is imperative for both states progress and prosperity. Therefore, everyone in Pakistan support these initiatives. Indeed these initiatives affirmative outcomes are immensely depend on the New Delhi’s response.