Love thy neighbour (India), it’s economically viable!

Published: September 30, 2012

Some critics hope that trade with India may dispel the impression that Pakistan is a land of fear ruled by the Taliban. DESIGN: ERUM SHAIKH

Pakistan and India have shared decades of a love-hate relationship under different regimes. The present government is leaning more towards love than hate and took the bold decision of granting most favoured nation (MFN) status to India, in order to open up trade between the two countries.

Some critics hope that trade with India may dispel the impression that Pakistan is a land of fear ruled by the Taliban. The question is whether an enhanced trade relationship between the two countries will bring these two rivals closer.

In recent talks held in Islamabad, India offered to set up a 2,000MW power plant in Pakistan, in addition to exporting 500MW of electricity to overcome the energy crisis. India also offered to provide 100 locomotives to Pakistan and agreed to provide a level playing field to Pakistani exporters by bringing down its sensitive list, maintained under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement by 30%.

Pakistan assured it would significantly expand its list of the goods to be traded through the Wagah border by the end of October. Both countries also decided to open the Wagah route for seven days a week instead of the current six-day operation.

While some fear that India will gobble up the small economy of Pakistan under the liberal regime of trade, they forget that Pakistani exporters will have a larger market in India to trade goods. This is good for liberals of both countries who want a closer relationship by burying rivalries of the past.

However, extremists in Pakistan and India have their role in framing relations between the two countries.

In February 1999, Atal Behari Vajpayee, then prime minister of India, journeyed by bus to Lahore at the invitation of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and signed the Lahore Declaration.

In May 1999, three months after the Lahore Declaration, the Kargil conflict occurred, sweeping all efforts to bring the two rivals closer.

Both Pakistan and India have extremist groups that directly oppose the peace process between the two countries. So, the question still exists whether this relationship of love will last or if some tragic incident will sweep it all away.

However, in a time when a majority of countries are developing trade relations with rivals like China, it is not a bad idea to have trade with India.

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Zafar Bhutta

A reporter on the Business Desk at The Express Tribune who is based in Islamabad.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

More by this writer

  • Parvez

    Totally agree with what you say but for anything like this to really happen and go beyond the talking stage does not depend on the civilian governments on both sides. Unless sense and reason does not prevail where it should, nothing will materialise.Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma

    @author: ” … The question is whether an enhanced trade relationship between the two countries will bring these two rivals closer. … ”

    We want to maintain our distance, please. Our societies are explosively incompatible.Recommend

  • umer

    @Arijit Sharma
    Thank you for accepting the two nation theory !
    I think it is a good idea to think about economic ties ! enough of hatred ! if only Indians / extremist like Arijit learn to deal with peace.Recommend

  • Asma Khalid

    No doubt co-operation in economic field and economic interdependence play a significant role in reducing the probability of wars among states.And ties in economic field can change the relationship of two nuclear adversaries.But what i think is that territorial disputes like kashmir, siachen are major hurdle in improving economic relations. Solution of these issues could bring the two countries significantly closer on a longer path of friendship and harmony.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    First of all, foreign relations are ideally not driven by love and hate; it is this counter-productive approach that prevents Pakistan from developing a coherent and lasting foreign policy – you want be ideologically Islamic yet appear progressive, get handouts from the US yet proclaim friendship with China from the rooftops, hedge against the US with Russia but keep Afghanistan unstable, get gas from Iran but cosy up to Saudi Arabia, increase trade with India but feed and nurture existing ill-will; consequently, none of these grand ideas really work out. For a country that worries about its markets being inundated with less expensive Indian goods, you have given China carte blanche to come in and take over. It is surprising that Chinese imports are not even an issue for consideration because for the all-weather friend, no price is too high.
    Pakistan may be a good market for some Indian goods and vice-versa, that is all; why don’t we just keep it simple and grounded instead of bringing love and hate into every discussion.Recommend

  • Praveen Singh

    First stop people like Kasab…..Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma

    @umer: ” … if only Indians / extremist like Arijit learn to deal with peace. … ”

    I assure you – I am a pacifist. I am suggesting isolation to avoid confrontation. Recommend

  • Raj

    Are you kidding ? Ask the world…It will tell you who the extremists are. Indians have suffered enough with having Pak as its neighbor ! Terrorism, Border tensions , issues with Kashmir…Pak ppl are hypocrites, extremely Volatile and Support Terrorists like laden ..We Indians really don’t want any relations with you guys !! ThankyouRecommend

  • Anoop

    As an Indian my angle is different. I want India to have good relations with all countries. Why should Pakistan be singled out?

    Pakistan was reluctant because its a revisionist state and hence is afraid of the status quo viz a viz India. But, we are not.

    India should proceed on the path of having no enemies, but should be prepared to fight any potential threat. We are not a confrontationist state. We should aim to achieve non-importance of Pakistan by having the same exact relations with it that we have with, say, Sri Lanka or a Bhutan.

    If you take out the nuclear threat, Pakistan is just another non-G20, non-P5 country, something like North Korea.Recommend

  • Ashish

    @umer Two nation theory !! what is that !!! BDW its gud that that part of India is gone…The complex india has become lot simplet to maintain.Recommend

  • gp65

    @BlackJack: All the examples you listed have contradiction between stated goals and associated actions. The root cause is not that they are allowing ‘love and hate’ to drive their foreign policy. The love and hate is manufactured amongst the awaam by their establishment (both civil and military) using tools of the state including media, textbooks, maddrasa management and review policy and so on but the foreign policy makers themselves are not driven by love and hate.

    So why then do contradictions exist? I think it is because hypocrisy was very successful in the past. Two things have changed :
    1) Social media/online access to TV programs/newspapers within a country to people throughout the world – which makes it difficult to say inconsistent things to different stakeholders
    2) Pakistan’s perfidies do not just affect India anymore but also impact US and UK and they are making sure that the world knows by leveraging their media.

    The foreign policy team is however stuck in a time warp and thinks that just because their lies and hypocrisy were effective in the past, they will continue to be effective. They have so far not adapted to the changed circumstances.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Asma Khalid: Pakistan has played talibans in Afghanistan for the over 20 years now and have destroyed Afghanistan in order to gain strategic depth. Pakistan failed to give equal rights Bangalis that led to formation of Bangladesh (3 million dead). Balochis are being treated as slaves. Shias want to kill Sunnis and Ahmadis.

    There is no Kashmir involved here. Pakistan is playing war on terrorism, playing on both sides of the game.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Insaan: My friend Shia are the ones being killed by extremists Sunni organizations like LeJRecommend

  • Zalim Singh

    is anybody listening?Recommend

  • Zalim Singh

    no thanks.Recommend

  • Paki Existentialist

    Both the nations will learn to cooperate and harmonise their relations someday. Our animosity is not bitter than that existed between EU countries(Take a look at WW2). Why both of us cannot learn from them?

    @ Indian Friends here
    India has similar problems only the intensity is different. We are not resposible for all the terrorism in India. Yes Kisab is one.But the triggering point was isolation and persecution of Muslims. Events like Mumbai riots ,Gujrat riots etc alienated Muslims inside India.This is the mother of terrorism inside India. Pakistani involvement? yes with an open heart I accept.But similar way you were involved in East Pakistan(BD now) and you are involved in Balochistan.This is a bitter reality and a vicious cycle. Retaliation and counter-retaliation by RAW and ISI. What you people say let’s hand over our future to these politicians and security establishments and sit aside. I am disappointed by your approach sir.It is the people who can turn the tide. This is why people to people contacts are stressed in international relations. I am very sorry for Kisab, he was a terrorist and many like him terrorize inside Pakistan as well. We are fighting against them here and you are fighting them there. If I (mean Pakistani people)offer you a hand of friendship in this messy situation, what would you do? Accept it or just ignore it and insist on enmity . Your choice,but some choices have to be made with a neighbour.Recommend

  • G. Din

    @Arijit Sharma: to umer
    “I assure you – I am a pacifist. I am suggesting isolation to avoid confrontation.”
    Pacifism is selfish abdication of one’s responsibility towards one’s society. It is intellectual lassitude in the mistaken belief that if we can assure our adversaries of our peaceful intentions, we shall be spared the rigours of defending ourselves. It is cowardly. The adrenaline in every living being’s body attests to the fact that God never intended us to be pacifists; He wants us to fight for our right to survival. Confronting a bully not only in our own cause but also as a sympathizer of a third party is an honourable duty to which we must harken without hesitation. Those who forget Lord Krishna’s exhortation that fighting for a righteous cause is incumbent upon every Hindu always live to regret it, as indeed witness Nehru. I take that back. Nehru was not an Hindu!Recommend

  • Shibl

    In the title, it should be it’s not its.
    Good article.Recommend

  • Insaan

    My friend Shia are the ones being killed by extremists Sunni organizations like LeJ

    Thanks for correcting me. Recommend

  • rana umer

    Balochis are being treated as slaves. Shias want to kill Sunnis and Ahmadis.
    this type of problems are also in india like sikhs wanted separation(khalistan), and what you have done with muslims in gujrat??? i think the issue is trade liberalization between both countries so we have to comment on this,Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Thank you for accepting the two nation theory !

    Why are you people still stuck on the two nation theory?? Its been more than 60 year and Pakistan is a reality and we not only accept it but wholeheartedly thank Jinnah for creating a Pakistan outside of Indian borders.

    And looking at the way Pakistanis expressed their love on love the prophet day, we really don’t feel the need for any more of your love, thank youRecommend

  • Sonia

    Why should we give a damn about india? We should focus more on our relations with China, Iran and Turkey and improve trade with them. I think ET has some kind of obsession with india, isn’t it?Recommend

  • Naz

    @ Sonai….

    I pity you… India gave pakistan MFN status long ago.. and look what we got .. Kargil, Kasab and the like….

    I think if India choses to ignore Pakistan, it will do pakistan more harm.. the moderates in pakistan will have nowhere to go….poor guys… they form the bulk of pakistan thinking…Recommend

  • ethicalman

    It always amazes blank Pakistani columnist can be…” The present government is leaning more towards love than hate and took the bold decision of granting most favoured nation (MFN) status to India” do you know after signing a deal with country you have reciprocate it’s deeds ..India has given MFN status to Pakistan from 1997 onwards..And Pakistan had to reciprocate from years now and finally they did…which Pakistani think, is only one way affair..and they will lose economically..

    Pakistan has to stop equating Indian extremism with Pak self made extremism (Talibs, Mula’s) Our extremism is only against our government policies..Pak extremism is against not only against India but also against its own people… Do Pakistani really think the rest of Pakistani thinks like the some of the few sane netizens ? answer is no… and I’m not going to talk about 1999 what Pakistan did in Kargil..cause we all know that but I’m sure some Pakistani will deny that..

    Another point that needs to be discussed is how much does Pakistani intellectuals really know about India or care to know about..other than their pre conceived notions that they carry ..since 1940’s ..I’m always appalled to know how little or wrong information do they carry in their it was like earlier Pak History books were wrong but it seems like even the current affairs about India is faulty…(or maybe they consciously do find faults ) No wonder so much of ill is said by common Pakistani’s..Comparing Indians extremist and Pakistan extremist.. Which Indian extremist group owns power in India? or make changes in its policies ? That is the parliament of India where as in Pakistan its extremists who’s pressure works..Even in Malala case there still so much support for the Taliban ..

    Finally talking about trade will be tough for Pakistan to compete with India…cause we have many Private companies..which even the Chinese don’t have (Chinese have state owned, which is helped in every foreign dealing, Chinese ports in South Asia and the rest countires are builds with the help of Chinese prisoners)… Pakistani export products mainly involves spices, textiles etc. which only has north Indian demand where as Indian products range from petroleum products, heavy machineries, etc…

    Other things ..same old blood bath..nothing new from the commenter’s..Recommend

  • ethicalmane

    i gave the wrong link when is said ‘in Malala case there still so much support for the Taliban .. ‘

  • abubakar

    i think u all the artical readers and the team of tribune is bull shit u must bi killedRecommend