Bringing change

Published: October 1, 2011

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One of the best things which has happened this week seems to be the India-Pakistan agreement to increase trade relations from around $2 billion to $6 billion over the next three years. The two countries have also agreed to start joint business ventures, establish banking facilities in each other’s countries that would further ease trade, start an additional trading post, and improve visa facilities for the business community. India has also dropped its objection to the European Union trade quota for Pakistan. Most important, the commerce teams of both countries met after 35 years with a lot of political support from their respective political leadership.

From Pakistan’s perspective, this is an excellent development on three counts.

Firstly, it would contribute to improving Pakistan’s economic situation. This is not just about Indian goods and services coming to Pakistan but vice versa as well. For a country like Pakistan, searching for an independent foreign policy, economic independence is a must which it will get with greater trade opportunities. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that Pakistan desperately needs openings for its products and services, especially, given the expansion of the Chinese market into Pakistan. Besides various critical problems like dearth of electricity and gas, one of the major issues now hurting the country is the dumping of Chinese goods and manpower in Pakistan. Not that many would like to admit, but Pakistan’s natural ‘strategic depth’ in terms of trade and economic activities is within the region, especially India, with its expanding economy.

Secondly, purely from a regional peace standpoint, the expansion of trade will naturally increase the stakes that the two countries will have in each other’s peace and stability. This does not mean that they will not contest each other on what is critical to their interests but greater trade will have a force-multiplier effect. Thirdly, from Pakistan’s end, this does not seem to be an initiative taken solely by the political government. According to the grapevine, this has some consent of the military leadership which has always been averse to improving ties with India. Some even suggest that given the current tension with the US military commanders, we were forced to look at ways to improve the country’s economic standing. Hence, the army top brass had to agree with the business community’s point of view of letting trade grow.

However, enhancing relations, even trade ties, cannot be carried out in a vacuum. In order for other projects such as the gas pipeline to take-off, which will be discussed in the follow-up meetings, Pakistan would have to ensure it keeps violence, especially that of the militant outfits, in check. This is not just about putting the leadership of militant outfits behind bars but changing the socio-political narrative that has fueled conflict so far. The understanding of the top military leadership regarding the necessity of cross-border trade ties has to, at some stage, be communicated to the middle and junior management levels of the armed forces and to the civilian bureaucracy as well. I would like to repeat, that this is not about withdrawing our position on issues such as Kashmir, but explaining how politics or geo-politics must be separated from geo-strategy at this stage and communicate this to the lower ranks that might, otherwise, get riled up with what is happening.

Part of changing the narrative is the necessity to address the framing of the enemy and a new trading partner through the media. Someone has to understand that characters like Zaid Hamid, who constantly talk of Ghazwa-e-Hind and establishing a Khilafa to do that, may just be irrelevant to the changing environment and thus should not be given the legitimacy and space they have continued to get thus far. This is necessary particularly to sooth the nerves of young men who join militant outfits and later get out of control when they don’t see any action. The Zaid Hamid narrative adds to their frustration. The media is acclaimed to be independent but it is nationalist as well which means that it will have consideration for national interests. Just like the media played up the atrocities of the Taliban during a certain period that made the Swat operation possible, the media can play a role in, at least, removing obstacles to improving the narrative that can further help with trade ties.

More than money, improving trade ties is about mutually building capacities and infrastructure in a world that will be shaped-up not just by military prowess but largely by economic capacities.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2011. 

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Reader Comments (48)

  • Paras Vikmani
    Oct 1, 2011 - 9:46PM

    I am not sure if Pakistan Army has given approval for this initiative.


  • Ak
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:10PM

    Making characters like Z Hamid irrelevant should have been done sevaral years ago if it was possible..but unfortunately vast no. of people still find joy in his conspiracy theories.
    This mindset has to change if irrelevant people like ZH are to be pushed to the corner.
    This unfortunately does not seem to happen in the near future..


  • I hate to burst the bubble.
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:24PM

    I hate to be the party spoiler! But all things can be separated from one another geo-political from economic etc. However, However, not when your real strategic assets are about doing pure-evil!


  • YeaRight
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:25PM

    Chinese dump their goods on us, but India will never do the same? What makes you so sure that India will be nice enough to nurture our economy and not be dominating like the way it is vis-a-vis Nepal and Sri Lanka. Typical Hypocrisy.


  • indian
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:37PM

    now indian congress itself financing terrorist attack in india.


  • kamran Ali
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:46PM

    Good piece much better and constructive than the Military Inc which was a bundle of inaccuratly narrations and interpretations. Its in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and China’s interests to cooperate for peace and trade instead of getting used by extra regional powers.


  • BruteForce
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:50PM

    @Paras Vikmani:

    I think it does. When the trade gets big enough, India will have another leverage over Pakistan, which is a good thing. It can threaten to cut aid which will help millions. For that to happen the trade has to achieve its full potential. Which is why I think the Military opposed it in the past.

    When Pakistanis benefit from India, a large portion of them will stop hating India, and that will erode the Military’s influence.Recommend

  • khan jr
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:01PM

    Even a half-witted economist would tell you that countries like China and Japan did not become major powers because of the size and quality of their armed forces (a ladoo for any who can recall that the million man Red Army got thrashed and trashed by tiny Viet Nam in 1979).

    It is the power of their economies, of course, that has propelled them into the world scene.

    In Pakistan we have mighty generals and a puny economy. For Pakistanis to be fed, educated and prosper we need this equation to be reversed.


  • Nasir
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:09PM

    Agree with most of what you said but accusing Pakistan only for all the situation with India is not fair. They also have to stop supporting elements in Baluchistan and FATA. Had some words of advice been given to India too, It would have been a more balance analysis.


  • paktiger
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:22PM

    Pakistan should improve its trade ties with India,China,Iran,Bangladesh and srilanka. We have about 4 billion peoples living in the region around us.Recommend

  • jugno
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:33PM

    Regional trade is the only way we could improve our economy fast.Recommend

  • Oct 1, 2011 - 11:40PM

    Whats the problem. Given how the military has a finger in every economic pie in the country, they too stand to benefit.


  • Diggvijay Singh
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:56PM

    Part of changing the narrative is the necessity to address the framing of the enemy and a new trading partner through the media. Someone has to understand that characters like Zaid Hamid, who constantly talk of Ghazwa-e-Hind and establishing a Khilafa to do that

    Madame, please don’t conspire to shut down shop for Sir Zaid Hamid. Ever since Leonardo da Vinci, he has been the most multi-faceted and versatile talent the world has ever seen. He is a black-belt in Taekwondo, an equestrian champion, an authority on the works of Allama Muhammed Iqbal, former sidekick of a New Age Prophet, a guerilla-war veteran familiar with the rugged terrains of Afghanistan, a global security analyst, an Austrian-school economist, a diligent student of Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and Freemasonry history and fairy-tales, a top-class exponent of theatrics, and above all, a grandiloquent mesmerizing orator. Most sensible Indian youtubers are in absolute awe of him. I look up to him as a role model. Only a few juvenile Indians, shallow in thoughts and myopic in their outlook, have failed to recognize the blinding genius of this man lying under the veneer of humility and simplicity, his contagiously affectionate smile and his Bolshevik-revolution red cap. I mean, here is a man whose DNA-testing could offer vital clues in evolutionary biology regarding the splitting of the neanderthal and homo sapiens gene pools and we think of setting him aside? We should be listening to him as often and as keenly as we can! I personally don’t mind his Ghazwa- e-Hind at all if India can have a Khalifa as brilliant and talented as Sir Zaid Hamid.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 2, 2011 - 12:14AM

    He is pakistani Bal Takhrey.


  • TightChuddi
    Oct 2, 2011 - 12:17AM

    Zaid Hamid is trying to become the Baba Ramdev of Pakistan. Only time will tell if accomplishes this. Just like Baba Ramdev has centered a cult of personality same with ZH. Baba gives medical and spiritual consipracy theories (eg curing AIDS and cancer via yoga) ZH gives political conspiracy theories…


  • Falcon
    Oct 2, 2011 - 12:32AM

    So beautifully articulated, well analyzed, and aptly balanced article. Thanks for putting it together!


  • MD
    Oct 2, 2011 - 12:42AM

    Madam, when you say that Pakistan’s economy would benefit from opening up the trade with India, no one can contest your opinion. In fact, I would say that it would be a new lifeline for the Pakistan’s floundering economy. But, in my opinion Pakistani government has committed a major blunder by singing a free trade agreement (FTA) with China, which virtually, killed all the small and medium scale industries in Pakistan. I wonder how can the people responsible for Pakistan’s future could commit such an atrocity. Even India, with its massive industrial and service sector base is scared of signing a FTA with China, despite persistent demands from the Chinese. The main reason behind the India’s reluctance to sign the FTA is that the Chinese government’s attempts at keeping Yuan cheaper artificially and their huge hidden subsidies that keep electricity dirt cheap in China.
    Success of China lies in the fact that its extremely low quality goods are a hit with poor lower middle classes of the third world countries and also with struggling economies of the developed world. Despite heavy tariffs and non tariff barriers, cheap quality Chinese goods are popular with Indian lower middle classes. Therefore, one can easily imagine as to what might have been the fate of Pakistan’s low and middle level industries, once the Pak Govt. concluded FTA with China. I am sorry to say that by signing the agreement, Pakistan lost the leverage of being, a country with a population of a 180 million people and potential.
    Even today, I suggest that Pakistan must cancel its FTA with China and renegotiate and negotiate with its two giant neighbors, aiming at extracting maximum investment, transfer of technology and other trade benefits, before reaching a an agreement on open trade with both of them.
    I believe, that the real “strategic location” of Pakistan is of its being an immediate neighbor of both the economic giants of Asia. Pakistan can benefit immensely, but, there is a condition, it must confine its citizens’ religions to the four walls of their homes!


  • hassan khan
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:04AM

    if india dumps its substandard things on us like china is doing now what is wrong with it. after all, our muslim and arab countries have dumped their trash known as terrorists in our country.
    we have become a Big Trash Box for all the world


  • sohaib
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:24AM

    @BruteForce @Paras

    Its Indians who hate Pakistanis and not vice versa. I see a lot of these Indians coming to our pages and preaching us the virtues of submitting to Indian diktat in the region. Its funny and it smacks of arrogance which only Indians can have. While they think they are ‘aid giving’ country, they dont realize they have massive population living below the poverty line. So stop being bombastic and get your feet down to reality. You are not some European country or US. So stop dreaming n that league.


  • N
    Oct 2, 2011 - 3:39AM

    We should export Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul to India as part of the trade confidence building measures. indians don’t have enough fun, while we have entirely too much. Furthermore, it will take them forever to understand the superiorness of our lifafas. We might be able to surpass them as they study these specimens of infinite intellect and wisdom!


  • AnisAqeel
    Oct 2, 2011 - 3:58AM

    All depends on our ‘mighty military’ power that controls everything from local politics to crime to interior and exterior policies. So far political leadership has shown better attitude towards understanding the military and creating a bit of its independence while coming out of toddler’s stage and hope soon will start crawling unless crushed by ‘mighty’ lust of power. We should be worried about this ‘might’ and not by Chinese or Indian dumping policy around the world.
    Pakistan is a small economy with big population and depressed Rupee may not be as beneficial for Chinese and Indian dumping but bringing unapplied cheap Pakistani labor for producers to export and market readily in a huge Indian market unless ‘might’ brings in its own agenda to implement. On the other hand dumping will reduce consumer price index that is needed to combat high inflation rate that may help to improve Rupee in Pakistan.
    I hope Ms. Ayesha’s observation about Kashmir is right but I fear a compulsive interference may keep it alive the other way although we can keep it alive effectively only with economic power and not with ‘might’.


  • Shock Horror
    Oct 2, 2011 - 3:59AM

    Are you sure that Deep State with its Strategic Depth policy fully understands the likely long term implications of growing trade with India? It could mean a lower role for the traditional and self appointed Guardians of Pakistan.


  • C V Bharati
    Oct 2, 2011 - 7:05AM

    “When Pakistanis benefit from India, a large portion of them will stop hating India, and that will erode the Military’s influence.”
    This part of your comment is not valid for Pakistanis. Look at their relationship with US. US has been giving aid to Pakistan for the last 63 years. Pakistan is still receiving US aid despite all the duplicity, revelations of its terror related projects in other countries.
    The only way to bring behavioural change in Pakistanis to to isolate them like Iran and North Korea and wait for the people to respond to international isolation. Recommend

  • ramanan
    Oct 2, 2011 - 8:30AM


    Baba Ramdev does not spew hatred unlike Zaid HamiRecommend

  • narayana murthy
    Oct 2, 2011 - 8:49AM

    I hope this does something good for both the countries. More trade means more chances for peace than war.

    India has to be very careful, so as not to pamper Pakistan – a spoilt brat already! Be helpful and positive but also be practical. We have had several back-stabbings from Pakistan.

    @Nasir…the author has a wise piece of advice to someone like you. India’s involvement in Balochistan and Fata is a conspiracy theory manufactured by someone like Zaid Hamid. So, the author says, Nasir, make zaid hamid irrelevant.


  • Rahul Singh
    Oct 2, 2011 - 9:18AM

    India has always been a supporter of strong economic ties with Pakistan it is only Pakistan which has resisted. India has given ‘most favored nation’ treatment to Pakistan but Pakistan has not reciprocated yet. Pakistan can benefit from this more than India because of huge Indian market, but so far it has opted to export terrorism rather than goods.


  • Simon
    Oct 2, 2011 - 11:03AM


    It shows the distance these two nations have travelled in last two decades that same event which is being called progress in liberal Pakistan press has total indifference shown by Indian media. It just tells about the different expectation the two have as far as the economic ties are concerned.
    I remember the olden times in India when trade barriers and import duties were directly proportional to our sovereignity, thankfully now we know better.

    Hope better sense will prevail and not stuck in the mind set of ‘ghaas khayenge lekin 1000 saalon tak ladenge’!


  • Diggvijay Singh
    Oct 2, 2011 - 11:09AM

    Trade not aid is the way ahead.


  • Anuj
    Oct 2, 2011 - 11:43AM

    dream on…..2014 , Manmohan Singh , the great pakistani supporter in India will be thrown in trash and so does all the trade agreements…..we have nothing to do with pakistan, but we cant have liberal ties with a ‘ terrorist nation’ …….


  • Feroz
    Oct 2, 2011 - 12:38PM

    To openly admit that relations between the neighbors have been held hostage by the Military Establishment is a candid reflection of reality. It must also be said that India may give some trade concessions but if the 26/11 terrorists are not prosecuted and convicted that government will not receive the backing of its people for the continuation of any dialogue. Another terrorist attack in India sponsored from Pakistan could be the last nail in the coffin of bilateral relations. While the situation remains so fragile zero progress on contentious issues is to be expected. Indians recognize where the Power lies and consider Ministers going here and there as being only highly paid Postmen. Nobody considers even a word uttered by Pakistani Ministers as worthy of comment.


  • Diggvijay Singh
    Oct 2, 2011 - 1:21PM

    Zaid Hamid is not a bad person. You can say he is just emotionally overcharged and overtly patriotic. He is a multidimensionally talented man with great oratory skills. He has a black belt in martial arts and his equestrian skills are pretty good for his age. He often offers a fresh perspective to global economic and political affairs and that’s the reason why he has been invited to Al Jazeera TV shows also. Many Indians misunderstand him. Zaid Hamid is not against Indians. He just opposes our government policies and gives hardhitting answers to the deluded saffron extremist camp.


  • murad shah
    Oct 2, 2011 - 2:10PM

    Someone has to understand that characters like Zaid Hamid, who constantly talk of Ghazwa-e-Hind and establishing a Khilafa to do that, may just be irrelevant to the changing environment and thus should not be given the legitimacy and space they have continued to get thus far.

    What kind of ethics is this,Very unfortunate to see such lines from a writer who claims to be a champion of democracy,and secularism.I mean one can differ with Zaid Hamids ideology and views but that doesnt mean he has no right to express his ideas.Its this mindset that has brought us to this disastor,why cant we tolerate each other


  • Chacha
    Oct 2, 2011 - 2:49PM

    Interesting that India has dropped its objections in WTO for the EU trade quota (at a time when its textile industry is also not doing well) yet there is not a single comment on that.

    When India opposed it in WTO everyone in Pakistan screamed murder, including those who post on this site.

    Pakistan thinks it has a god given monopoly over requiring everyone to be “sensitive to Pakistan’s concerns” yet offers nothing in return.

    Do not think for a moment that the Chinese do not know this. If US has a transactional relationship with Pakistan, then so does China.


  • Nate Gupta
    Oct 2, 2011 - 3:45PM

    @Nasir: Had some words of advice been given to India too, It would have been a more balance analysis.

    While I agree with your statement in general, the need of the hour is to look at one’s own house, as Mohtarma Ayesha Siddiqa has quite aptly done in this beautifully written article.

    We have our own army of journalists in India who try to keep everybody honest, believe me :)


  • meekal ahmed
    Oct 2, 2011 - 5:17PM


    While this is about India, what is the evidence that China is “dumping” goods and labor on the Pakistani market? Dumping is a very strong word and can be challenged at the WTO. Moreover, we have our own Tariff Commission. What do they say? Have they done any empirical studies and concluded that there is dumping? If so, have the applied (as they can under WTO rules) counter-veiling duties?

    As for labor, are Chinese workers in Pakistan who work on projects they are implementing (for mutual benefit) pushing down the wages of our workers and/or displacing them? Any evidence here?

    I am sure there hasn’t been a single study on the subject.

    The Chinese just quit the multi-billion rupee project to exploit Thar coal because of security concerns. How shameful. Many of their workers have been kidnapped and shot (the former set off the infamous Laal Masjid crisis). Pakistan is lucky, very lucky, that their people dare to come and work here at the risk of their lives.


  • SaudiRules
    Oct 2, 2011 - 7:31PM

    @Diggvijay Singh
    “here is a man whose DNA-testing could offer vital clues in evolutionary biology regarding the splitting of the neanderthal and homo sapiens gene pools and we think of setting him aside?”
    I do not understand , if you are criticizing or praising respected Zaid Hamid. You should realize that Zaid Hamid and Imran khan are well respected raising start of the young generation of pakistani. The future belong to the young and they have chosen their leaders.


  • RuKidding!
    Oct 2, 2011 - 7:33PM

    @YeaRight India does not have a devalued currency as china does. So the question of dumping cheap goods into pakistan does not arise. On the contrary Pakistani goods have a ripe market in India owing to the cultural similarities between Pakistan and Northern India. If you market your goods appropriately I dont see why Pakistani industry would not be able to take advantage of huge Indian market.

    In my opinion Indian government offering to open up trade with Pakistan is a carrot to Pakistan given its precarious economic situation. And in return India is not gaining anything worthwhile. India is not even conditionalizing opening up of Indian market. what more could you ask for?

    I couldnt agree more with Ayesha. She hit the nail on its head. She is one of the rarest kinds of minorities in Pakistan. The sane, reasonable and rational kind.

    Pakistan must ratify SAFTA and take advantage of Indian market just as other countries in South Asia did. Pakistan must allow transit facility from Afghanistan to India and vice versa. It will be immensely beneficial to Pakistan economically. Bangladesh has agreed to a similar transit facility between mainland India and North East India.

    Pakistani electronic media and Urdu print media have been perpetuating Jingoistic rhetoric in Pakistan that doesnt help the common man in the least. Pakistan’s web media like Express Tribune, Dawn and Daily Times offer a much more balanced analysis of various things Pakistan.


  • Analyst
    Oct 2, 2011 - 9:19PM

    Strategic depth or strategic death, thats the slogan of the day.


  • G. Din
    Oct 3, 2011 - 5:44PM

    “When Pakistanis benefit from India, a large portion of them will stop hating India, and that will erode the Military’s influence.”
    That is theory. Practice is what history teaches us. Pakistan has received immense benefits from its association with the US. They are talking about a divorce now. If US could single-handedly pull Europe and Japan up from their war-ravaged circumstances, or pull South Korea from third world backwaters to an industrialized giant, what kept Pakistan from benefiting from this relationship? Whose fault is it? Apparently, Pakistan’s. India is nowhere near US in its economic capacity and cannot afford and will not allow any shenanigans from Pakistan. Pakistanis are expert haters and they will continue to hate India. Nevertheless, as the author has welcomed this development, so should all Indians. It is for Pakistan to capitalize in its own interest. They are not doing any favours to India by trying to come out of their isolation!


  • Ali
    Oct 3, 2011 - 7:32PM

    You Can do one thing, First stop the atrocites comitted on the people of Kashmir then talk about so called leverage.


  • Vaneeza Ahmed
    Oct 3, 2011 - 7:48PM

    Countries and societies flourish because of ideologies and NOT good leader’s charms. In democratic set up a leader has to show flexibility to the party manifesto and the wishes of coalition partners. In Germany, for example, coalitions have worked well because the greater interest of electorate and country is given more importance than following ‘great’ leaders. Hitler came to power in 20th century with great ideas of bringing Germany to top of the league and failed miserably. He in fact destroyed Germany, killed millions and had the country divided. When I hear this word ‘great’ leadership, i get the shivers.
    What Pakistan needs is democracy getting stronger and change of faces only after the electorate decides that. An edgy government, always forced to look over the shoulders to survive is not in a position to do any revolutionary. We have to scrutinize the manifestos of the parties to decide which side we are on. The problem is that there is a white elephant in the room and that is: Fundamentalists and their jihadi mindset. Pakistanis want to know if there are enough jobs in industry, education for the kids and hospitals when we get sick. How we spend our lives should be decided by us and not what the fundamentalists tell us. WE need great institutions, a constitution that is respected. Things will improve slowly but surely. Great leaders can wait in the shadows. Talking big is easy, delivering is more significant.


  • observer
    Oct 3, 2011 - 8:10PM


    GHQ has already said, ‘No economic prosperity at the cost of ghairat’. So there.


  • BruteForce
    Oct 3, 2011 - 8:20PM


    So you talk about atrocities against Uighur Muslims before talking to China or is it reserved only against India?Recommend

  • BruteForce
    Oct 3, 2011 - 8:22PM

    @G. Din:

    Lets look at this way. Atleast India benefits by trading with Pakistan, no matter if the hatred from Pakistan reduces or not.Recommend

    Oct 3, 2011 - 10:27PM

    I can’t understand that why the author and many Pakistanis criticise Zaid Hamid who is such a lovable guy and a great source of entertainment to the Indians. Recently, an Indian doctor claimed hundrerd percent success in curing depressed patients without medicines by playing videos of Zaid Hamid in his clinic.


  • Shock Horror
    Oct 3, 2011 - 11:46PM

    Do not forget the atrocities committed against Baloch individuals.


  • G. Din
    Oct 4, 2011 - 5:17PM

    Trade benefits both parties. That is why I welcomed the author’s suggestion. But, if Pakistan turned an ingrate with the US, there is not much hope that they will love us. Let us keep our expectations low, trade with each other on an equal, businesslike basis. We don’t have to embrace each other, only keep our swords sheathed!


  • BruteForce
    Oct 4, 2011 - 8:23PM

    @G. Din:


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