Pakistan should Deny one sided concessions to India

Asif Haroon Raja

The US brokered Pak-Afghan-Transit-Trade-Agreement (PATTA) on July 19, 2010 allowing transportation of Afghan goods through Wagah to India and in return Pakistan getting permission to use Afghan territory for trade with Central Asian Republics (CARs). The US twisted Pakistan’s arm to make India part of PATTA so as to allow India to export goods to Afghanistan and beyond through Wagah border, grant Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to India and liberalize visa regime. Efforts are now in hand to pressure Pakistan to allow India to transport merchandise goods to and from Afghanistan without giving anything in return except for deceptive promises that trade with India will be of great benefit to Pakistan. A new opening is being given to India despite the fact that there is a serious trade imbalance in Indian favor.

On 2 November 2011, Pakistan agreed in principle to grant MFN status to India with a view to liberalize trade between the two countries, disperse clouds of distrust, build confidence and bolster peace process.  By December 2012, India would transition to full MFN status. Several rounds of talks took place to remove bottlenecks and improve overall climate for two-way trade. Pakistan has been insisting to remove non-trade barriers against Pakistani goods and ease its quality control and customs procedures. Visa regime has been liberalized and new land routes are being sought by India. Apart from awarding MFN status to archenemy, India has also been made part of PATTA.

MFN status to India will enable India to tilt trade balance completely in its favor since even now when Pakistan enjoys MFN status since 1996, its exports to India are worth $200-$350 million only and that of India without MFN status are $2.3 billion. Current trade balance remains heavily in favor of India. Once India is bestowed the MFN status without providing protection to local manufacturers and growers, and granted access to Afghanistan and Central Asian markets through Pakistan, it would not only flood our markets with cheap Indian goods and cripple our manufacturing industries, but would also fulfill India’s dream of monopolizing the economics of South Asia and Central Asia.

Pakistan has decided to compete with India and grant it additional concessions at a time when Pakistan’s industry and economy is highly vulnerable and fragile and the country is at the brink of becoming a failing state. The west has already started calling Pakistan a failed state. Pakistan GDP in 2010/11 stood at 2.4 % as against India’s 8.5 %. Indian exports to Pakistan stand at $1.2 billion as against Pakistan’s exports to India totaling $268 million. Since India’s economy is robust and vibrant and has relatively secure environment, the trade deficit is likely to grow further. India will be in a much better position to flood Pakistani markets with cheap Indian goods to destroy Pakistan’s economy and local industry. Unable to compete with India, it will adversely impact Pakistan’s manufacturing industries and will also negatively impact Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan and with CARs.

Seeing the military and nuclear build up of Indian armed forces at a feverish pace, its threatening posture particularly because of its ominous strategic alignment with USA, Afghanistan and Israel, its refusal to solve any of the longstanding disputes, its ongoing water and covert war together with propaganda campaign against Pakistan, it is simply mind boggling to hear our rulers harping that India doesn’t nurture ill-designs against Pakistan. Hina Rabbani is upbeat that distrust gap between Pakistan and India is narrowing and greater people to people interaction and trade between the two countries would help in improving the overall climate.

The intriguing question is as to why should Indian business community risk trading with Pakistan where industries are closing down due to perpetual power shortages and scarcity of gas, and our businessmen are shifting to Bangladesh, Malaysia and India due to prolonged load-shedding, shortage of gas, insecure environment, unstable political situation and economy in dire straits? India doesn’t want to help Pakistan to become economically viable but it has been its fervent desire to make Pakistan economically unviable. Covert war combined with water war and propaganda war, and now supplemented with trade war is designed to strangulate Pakistan and forced to withdraw Kashmir case and forget about other disputes. Moreover, knowing that India is vying to become the leading contender among other competitors in Afghanistan and is using Afghan territory to destabilize FATA and Baluchistan, yet an understanding has been given to India that it will be given access to Afghan markets via land route.

Once India consolidates her position in Afghanistan and establishes strategic links with CARs through Pakistan and Afghanistan, she will be in a position to block or curtail Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan and CARs, or open the trade route after extracting additional favors like putting all core issues in a cold freezer for times to come.

Should we again be misled into believing that this time India is genuinely interested in peace and friendship? If so, what is the basis of optimism? What practical steps India have taken to allay our legitimate fears, or to resolve outstanding issue of Kashmir, which bedevil Indo-Pak relations? For 64 years Pakistan has been ceding ground to win the friendship of India but couldn’t change the mindset of Brahman rulers. If India is genuinely interested in friendship with Pakistan, it must prove it by actions and not by deceptive and hypocritical sweet talk.

India has been constantly acquiring concessions from Pakistan under deceptive confidence building measures but giving nothing in return. Taking into account the hostile track record of India, Pakistan should open up its border with India for trade with due prudence, lest it falls into yet another trap. Grant of MFN status to India and land route through Wagah should be made conditional to the resolution of Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and water disputes and stoppage of Indo-Afghan cross border terrorism from Afghan soil. The US pressure and India’s guile must be resisted with full determination.

The writer is a retired Brig and a freelance columnist. Email:

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