No breakthrough likely as uncertainty mars Pak-India ties

Published: July 6, 2015
Sharif and Modi will be present in Moscow for attending SCO summit. CREATIVE COMMONS

Sharif and Modi will be present in Moscow for attending SCO summit. CREATIVE COMMONS

ISLAMABAD: Ever since the partition of sub-continent, uncertainty has been the hallmark of ties between Pakistan and India. Though at times tensions have eased somewhat, relations have not improved to such an extent that could allow businessmen to trade goods freely and permit people to easily travel between the two countries.

Earlier, the government had tried to grant India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status under a different title called Market Access Normalisation in an attempt to give a push to bilateral trade, but to no avail.

The previous administration of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had also strived to give the MFN status to India, but failed due to stiff opposition from various circles.

Tension flared when Modi categorically said during his visit to China that the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project was “unacceptable” to India. Later, he also acknowledged Indian role in the separation of Bangladesh during a trip to Dhaka. Modi, however, called Sharif to congratulate him for the start of Ramazan.

They have got an opportunity to bury the hatchet in Moscow where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian premier Narendra Modi are likely to be present on July 9 to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). However, foreign offices of the two countries are uncertain about the sideline meeting between the two heads of state.

During the visit, Pakistan and Russia are expected to sign a $2 billion deal for laying a liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline from Karachi to Lahore. Officials anticipate the Indian premier will oppose this energy agreement too as it had done in the case of CPEC.

Experts believe that the SCO summit will provide an opportunity to the arch-rivals to normalise ties if a Nawaz-Modi dialogue does take place. Russian President Vladimir Putin may play a key role in arranging the meeting as Moscow has had very friendly relations with Delhi.

Russia and China are also pleading the cases of India and Pakistan for a permanent membership of the SCO. At present, the two countries have observer status in the regional body.

The SCO has the mandate to improve relations between its member states. Russia and China are ambitious about turning the body into a powerful bloc that could play its part in settling rows between the members. The bloc will also help to provide assistance for nations like Pakistan that are eager to develop infrastructure to increase energy production and supplies.

With the support of many Asian, European and Latin American countries, China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and its one of the objectives is to help SCO members come out of the influence of western-backed multilateral financial institutions.

A meeting of the bank, a rival of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, was held recently in Beijing where Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was also present. The SCO summit, being held shortly after the establishment of the bank, is very critical in this backdrop.

For Pakistan and India, the trade and economic ties have not developed over the years as Islamabad believes that Delhi would have to first improve diplomatic relations. They had been discussing an energy trade plan including the supply of oil, LNG and electricity to meet the needs of Pakistan. But there has been no progress on these fronts since Modi became prime minister in May last year.

Pakistan is a net importer of oil and has also started purchasing LNG from overseas markets. It is working on power import projects with Iran and Tajikistan as well.

India too can jump in as it has many oil refineries and is in a position to export electricity and LNG. The time is ripe that India takes a careful look at its policies and undertakes initiatives to improve diplomatic relations with Pakistan.

This will also help Delhi in becoming a part of the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan transit trade agreement. Afghanistan is supporting India’s bid in this regard. But Pakistan has made it clear that India could not be embraced into the fold unless it improves diplomatic ties.

Experts believe that India is losing more than Pakistan because of the tense ties as friendly relations could have provided it access to the markets of Afghanistan and central Asian states via the land route. Not many are expressing the hope that the Nawaz-Modi meeting in Russia, if it is really held, will lead to some breakthrough.

the writer is a staff correspondent

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • shashiidhaar
    Jul 6, 2015 - 9:17AM

    Mr. Modi will not oppose (LNG) pipeline from Karachi to Lahore because it is not passing through pok. where as CPEC is passing through pokRecommend

  • Prada
    Jul 6, 2015 - 9:50AM

    We have been beating about the bush for nearly 70 years now. It is obvious that there cannot be peace from India’s perspective until Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir is vacated and integrated with India. Pakistan has its own minimum requirement for peace. Since these two extreme stands cannot be bridged, these “talks” will remain forever fruitless. Let’s live with the idea that we will forever be combatants. Recommend

  • Dubya
    Jul 6, 2015 - 9:50AM

    India can absorb the loss of business with Pakistan … the question is will Pakistan be able to ???Recommend

  • Khattak
    Jul 6, 2015 - 10:17AM

    SCO is competing against NATO. Pakistan being attached to NATO is no position to get advantage of SCO. In fact SCO has nothing much to deliver. India being major power member of SCO, Pakistan will have to submit to India on critical issues like Kashmir & terrorism. So not winning situation for Pakistan to become member of SCO.Recommend

  • indiana
    Jul 6, 2015 - 10:22AM

    India has more to lose than Pakistan? How? India Pakistan are not on the same level. We always get what we want. On the other hand Pakistan doesn’t even have the money to finish Iran Pakistan India pipeline after India bailed out not taking Chinas help to build it. TAPI pipeline cannot happen without indian funding also.Pakistan is in no terms to dictate. And if tapi is out of option we already are building deep sea pipeline from Iran India and oman to India for oil and gas respectively. Oman to India pipeline should be completed to 2018. Soo India doesn’t have anything to loose at all. In fact cutting diplomatic ties with Pakistan has helped us more than we thought. We have very very good ties with all the countries other than Pakistan and china . Wher as china has only two allies in asia Pakistan and north Korea. Both are dependent on china in reverse.Recommend

  • abreez
    Jul 6, 2015 - 10:52AM

    Mr. Modi will remind Pakistani people that their actual capital is not Islamabad but Delhi, which was capital of Pakistan from 1206 till 1857. Wait for some time you’ll see very different Pakistani people and the very different Pakistani government.Recommend

  • ron
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:01PM


    There was no Pakistan from 1206 to 1857Recommend

  • Union Jack
    Jul 6, 2015 - 1:27PM

    @abreez: Bachchey. There was no Pakistan before 1947. But whatever helps you sleep at night.Recommend

  • Indian Guy
    Jul 6, 2015 - 2:08PM

    When will Pakistani media understand that the opposition of India to CPEC is directed more towards China. This opposition was only natural, because China keeps opposing Indian infrastructure projects in Arunachal Pradesh saying it is a disputed territory. This protest actually led to World Bank not providing funding for some projects. China also has opposed a joint oil drilling project by India & Vietnam in South China sea. So, in this context, its only natural that India protests against any project by China in territory claimed by India. Having said all this, more often than not such protests hardly matter as the other party goes ahead with the projects anyway.Recommend

  • Indian Guy
    Jul 6, 2015 - 2:24PM

    If trade starts between Indian and Pakistan, obviously in absolute numbers, India shall benefit more than Pakistan, but in relative terms with respect to the overall size of the economy, the benefit to India would be very small compared to its overall trade volume. So, the major leverage that Pakistan has for India is transit to Central Asia, rather than trade. However, if Pakistan chooses to keep waiting till the political issues are resolved, then its going to take a very long time as they are not simple problems. And in the mean time, however costlier it might be, India will keep building other routes to Central Asia, circumventing Pakistan. For eg. the Chabahar port route and the already discussed Oman-Iran-India under-sea pipeline which is technologically feasible and keeping in mind the uncertainty associated with Pakistan, makes also economic sense too. Recommend

  • Sundar
    Jul 6, 2015 - 5:03PM

    While discussing the relations between India & Pakistan why ignore the big fat elephant sitting in the room which is pakistan army. Civilian heads meeting here and there is not going to lead a lasting peace. The change of heart must come from the Pakistan army. Remember when Indian PM visiting Lahore Mushi was planning Kargil. Until and unless pakistan army wants peace in the Indian sub continent, nothing will change really. Recommend

  • cautious
    Jul 6, 2015 - 8:18PM

    During the last week Pakistan has been attacked by Afghanistan, Iran and India … it’s clear that your neighbors aren’t buying your rhetoric that there is no such thing as a good terrorist. Also – your ally the USA also doesn’t believe your rhetoric either since there latest report indicated that Pakistan military hasn’t attacked Afghan Taliban during it’s Waziristan offensive.Recommend

  • Ibrar
    Jul 7, 2015 - 10:54AM

    You seem to give the impression Pakistan is encircled by countries with hostile intent. Border cross fire even between friendly countries is no a rare matter and is often determined by local factors between border keepers. America does from time to time release statements just to appease its new baby India otherwise they really have never seemed serious. America knows what Pakistan has done for them at a minimum cost but at huge cost to themselves. Pakistan is no longer a specific US ally but maintains good diplomatic relationship and America is, despite its apparent disappointments, still selling weapons to Pakistan.

    America and every other interested Party knows that Pakistan is not prepared to kill the so called good Taleban refugees unless they are carrying out attacks from with in Pakistan. And Pakistan has no right to join forces to kill the shadow Taleban with in Afghanistan only to push them to become proxies for India!!!!!. Moreover how can Pakistan be expected to defeat Taleban when America with all its might failed. Indian lobby in Kabul is also making life difficult for Ghani who himself is convinced that Pakistan is not a problem but a scape goat for those who have not been successful in their ultimate objectives.Recommend

  • Afzal
    Jul 7, 2015 - 11:15AM

    May be you are right but India like wise is not going to be a winner. If SCO is anything a Cold War it is much different and India is not going to make all those gains as it did in the past. The question of J&k is not about to be resolved in the immediate future regardless, so being a part of SCO is not going to be of particular disadvantage Pakistan. In fact Pakistan’s presence will be good to expose India’s double game. Remember India has been eyeing on American tech for a long while and if SCO is meant to be an answer to NATO (I do not think it is) it would be interesting to see what double game mechanism India will apply.Recommend

  • Bobb mack
    Jul 7, 2015 - 11:44AM

    India’s stubbornness, hardheadedness and stupidity has translated into perseverance with fixed position and a negative stand so that it has been beating about the bush on J&K for 70 years. It’s POK ranting has been a recent phenomenon largely born as a tit for tat to the main and original issue being the Indian Occupied Kashmir. I agree there is not any breakthrough expected in the near future and unless that happens we will remain best enemies.Recommend

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