Facing up to challenges

Published: March 1, 2014

ISLAMABAD: This is with reference to the story “No NDMA status for India unless concerns addressed” (February 25). The prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs has again spoken on India’s non-tariff barriers alluding that these prevent exports from Pakistan to India. The adviser has merely said what we read every day in newspapers and see on TV programmes.

To strengthen our case, we should bring forth the Pakistan-specific non-tariff barriers, which India allegedly imposes on Pakistani exports to India. Not one person has come forth listing out such measures. Most have evaded answers by narrating hearsay stories of some small-time government officials holding back clearances but no concrete rule or law has been cited to support the Pakistani case. This mindset of victimhood is the biggest impediment in the way of Pakistan’s growth. Strangely, an influential section of businessmen, opinion-makers and politicians are comfortable in letting our markets be swamped by Chinese, South Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese goods, but cry foul when the question of trading with India on fair grounds is raised. With every one of these countries, we have a negative balance of trade and yet, not an eyebrow is raised.

Our inability to export is not limited to India only. This is a general phenomenon of our export pattern. We have not diversified, nor have our volumes increased by any appreciable numbers over the years. We do not spend on product development and research. Our farming methods are medieval. Therefore, our farm productivity is amongst the lowest. Our industry is inefficient and has not grown within its cocoon of protectionism. Why begrudge someone’s efficiency? After all, China only became a factor in the global economy when Beijing opened its doors under Deng Xiaoping during the 1980s. India’s own potential was unleashed during the early 1990s when it opened itself to competition. The stories are countless.

No growth takes place in a vacuum. Competition and resistance engenders the best in human beings — that is the nature’s way. Even a kite does not fly without air resistance. This protectionism, arising out of a ‘victim’ mentality, is the real cause of Pakistan’s problems. Protectionism breeds a false and unsustainable sense of security, thwarts innovation and reduces the challenge to grow. If, after almost seven decades of independence, we still need protectionism, what good is the so-called human talent in this country? The truth is that this nation is a hostage to a few robber barons.

The common man is compelled to pay higher prices while only a few benefit. No wonder, over a third of Pakistanis, according to a Sustainable Development Policy Institute report cited in your paper of the same date, are living below the poverty line. Pakistan needs to face up to the challenge, and compete globally through efficiency and innovation, instead of falling for the political rhetoric of ‘non-tariff barriers’.

Sajjad Ashraf

Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • someone
    Mar 2, 2014 - 12:16AM

    First of all, there are not Pakistan specific NTBs. They apply to every country trying to export to India. Hence India can not remove any NTBs just on the request of Pakistan. Pakistan would need to compete with other nations in order to create a market in India for itself. On the other hand,since India has already given MFN to Pakistan 10 years back, it is obligatory on Pakistan to given the same. I think its time , India should drag Pakistan into international trade and WTO to force it to give MFN to India.


  • Avtar
    Mar 2, 2014 - 12:17AM

    Well put. While growing up in India and during the so called licence raj days, we used to get shoddy goods that did not function. Now a days, when I visit India, I have noticed an improvement in the quality of the goods and services. Competition is helping the average man, “license raj” only helped the vested interests. Living abroad, once in a while one buys goods made in India or Pakistan, generally the standards are not up to the snuff – but I have noticed the standards from India made stuff has been improving.


  • Mar 2, 2014 - 11:35AM

    India will not remove non-tariff barriers which protect its millions of poor famers, just it can export a few things to a country, which is as large as its largest state – Uttar Pradesh.

    I hope Pakistanis understand that these Non-Tariff Barriers cannot be country specific according to WTO rules.


  • pnpuri
    Mar 2, 2014 - 1:57PM

    a larger market will always add to income of producers India’s population is 6/7 times that of Pakistan. and a substantial number is vegetarian. which means larger demand for vegetable and fruits. India has been importing sugar and onions from pakistan and it must mean enhanced price to farmers. but at present sugar and onions are imported only as a part time arrangement and only traders are primary beneficiary. but if producer in Pakistan are assured of a large Market, their produce will fetch higher price. probably fertilizers and farm implements imported from India will also add to income of farmers in Pakistan. do not grudge profits which may be made by traders. speaking as a consumer in Delhi,where food items (Fruits, vegetables milk and poultry) are brought from all over India, I know that there are at least 4 to 6 middle man between producer and consumer.and every one makes profit.


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