A step forward

Published: September 29, 2011

Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma (R) welcome his Pakistan counterpart, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, during an India-Pakistan Business Conclave, exploring business between neighbours in New Delhi on September 29, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

The road to peace with India will invariably be filled with potholes so we should welcome all smooth turns. There were two unexpected bits of good news in talks between the two countries trade ministers. Amin Fahim and his counterpart Anand Sharma announced that trade between Pakistan and India would be doubled to the tune of $6 billion a year. Even more encouragingly, India is now going to drop its objection to the European Union importing Pakistani goods duty-free. This move is particularly welcome because it shows that India has put a high enough value on improving ties with Pakistan and that it is willing to make decisions that may well hurt its own textile industry.

This trade agreement is part of the peace process that was kick-started after a two-and-a-half year hiatus with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s visit to New Delhi this summer. Given the fractures that existed after India pinned the blame for the Mumbai attacks on Pakistan, even such measures, small though they may be, are a sign of progress. With no solution to the Kashmir issue on the horizon, it is best to put that on the back-burner for now and try to find common ground. Increased trade between the two countries will be mutually beneficial and so it is heartening that they are willing to put political differences aside to achieve this.

But completely ignoring the deep divide that separates Pakistan and India will not be possible in the long-term. Just this week, the Indian government seemed to react with barely disguised glee when the US accused Pakistan of supporting the Haqqani network. The issue of Afghanistan will loom large for the two countries as the US withdraws its troops and both seek to become the dominant player in the war-torn country. A practical solution to the Kashmir issue also seems as distant as ever — while new strains in the relationship are likely to be caused by disputes over water. This is not to say that peace in our time is impossible; simply that it will not be achieved in a single summit. Regular high-level meetings, a liberalised visa regime and further strengthening of economic ties will lay the foundation for peace. It is only then that the hard work begins.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Khan
    Sep 29, 2011 - 8:41PM

    And one would please bother to comment?
    Thank you India for acting as big brother in this instance.
    We hope that we both get rid of all outstanding issues including Kashmir and give a better, prosperous future to our near to 1.5 billion population who are held hostage due to small land disputes.
    India has a bilateral trade of $13.8 billion with UK. we are three times bigger than UK by population then why can’t we have near to $40 billion trade in future?

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  • ukmuslim
    Sep 30, 2011 - 3:57AM

    @khan
    sorry we don’t export terror.

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  • Beta
    Sep 30, 2011 - 1:13PM

    @Khan:

    Mr.Khan, could you please tell me, what is Kashmir got to do with prosperity of Pakistan ?

    Waste of time and energy, never try to straighten the dog’s tails.

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  • Farhan
    Sep 30, 2011 - 2:25PM

    Good step forward.

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  • G. Din
    Sep 30, 2011 - 5:39PM

    @Khan:
    “Thank you India for acting as big brother in this instance.”
    We should desist from bringing in this “big brother” business. This is an arcane South Asian way of opting out of obligations that ensue from favours we do to each other. As the saying goes: “one good deed must lead to another”. If Pakistan really thinks that India magnanimously agreed to some condition which would benefit Pakistan at its own cost, then the obviously right thing to do is to reciprocate such an act the next time around. Conduct your business in an honourable, businesslike way and people will respect you and want to do business with you. On the other hand, if you only take favours and don’t owe any in return, you will soon be out of people wanting to interact with you! It is not rocket science, is it?

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  • My name is indian
    Sep 30, 2011 - 5:39PM

    @khan
    Wright says pakistan should get increase trade with india and restrict terror organisation against india.Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Sep 30, 2011 - 11:16PM

    Calling one a “Big Brother” is not appropriate. With the exception of US & China, all nations are equal !
    .
    Yes, Pakistan is in need of help. India, should support the people of Pakistan in such a way that the benefits are realized by the common people of Pakistan.
    .

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