Indo-Pak Ties: Trade Diplomacy
The Indian Foreign Minister S.M.Krishna was in Pakistan on a 3-day visit and met with the President Zardari, and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and the leaders of major political parties. In addition to this, the Foreign Sectaries of the two countries signed a much awaited visa accord that will significantly simplify travel for people on both sides of the border.
No one expected a big breakthrough from Krishna’s visit and there was none, but the fact that both countries realize the importance of talking to each other augurs well for the future of the Indo-Pak relationship. Similarly, the signing of the visa accord shows that both countries are willing to translate all that talk into some action.
For 65 years, India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over various issues and the same issues continue to dog their relationship today, but in spite of this, it is important that both countries keep up this dialogue. Although traditional issues like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek remain, it is not possible in the current global context for Pakistan and India to remain in a constant state of enmity.
It is especially encouraging to note that both sides understand the importance of trade with each other and steps taken by India in this regard such as granting business visas and allowing foreign direct investment from Pakistan must be appreciated. On the other hand, Pakistan has decided to grant Most Favored Nation status to India due to which India will be able to export an estimated 6800 items to Pakistan, up from 2000 at the present. Bilateral trade is expected to rise to $ 6 Billion in the next three years from $ 2.7 Billion.
“Trade Diplomacy” will probably play a large part in the future development of the Indo-Pak relationship and that’s very well considering the economic situation in Pakistan. In India too, growth has slowed, deficits are running high and the rupee has fallen in recent months. Increased trade is, therefore, important to the economic wellbeing of both countries. In addition to that, the strengthening of economic ties will bring the countries closer to each other and build enough confidence to tackle long standing issues such as Siachen.
Coming back to Krishna’s visit, he even met PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf who urged him to make it easier for Pakistani fans to get visas to see the upcoming Indo-Pak cricket tournament. During talks with the President, he stressed that India wanted good relations with India.
Krishna also said that all issue cannot be resolved at once and that India and Pakistan are moving forward in a gradual manner and this highlights how important it is for both countries to keep talking to each other. Progress might be slow at first since there’s a massive trust deficit between us and the governments of both countries are weak at this time, what with elections looming and a dismal performance record, but in time, we may build enough confidence to actually tackle issues like Siachen and Kashmir, the solutions to which have eluded us for decades.
It may be rightly pointed out that not much has changed on the ground after this visit, but this is just the beginning and provided that we keep working with each other, the day just might come when we are able to put a bitter past behind us and start a new life as cordial neighbors.