Pakistani daily rues delay in opening trade with India

Islamabad: The outreach to India could be the centerpiece of the Pakistani government’s foreign policy credentials going into the election, a leading daily said Monday, lamenting that the process of trade liberalization with New Delhi has been “gummed up because of parochial interests”.

An editorial in the Dawn said trade with India is supposed to be the game-changer in relations between the two countries.

“Better ties with India, including flinging open the doors to mutually beneficial trade, is supposed to have become a bedrock principle among mainstream politicians. But few things here follow a smooth script,” it said while referring to Pakistan missing a self-imposed deadline to allow all tradable items to cross the land border with India.

Agriculturalists and their supporters in cabinet are reluctant to endorse the government’s own plan ahead of an election, it said.

“The thinking is typically protectionist, and bereft of a full understanding of what Pakistan would have to do after cabinet endorsement of trade liberalization with India.

“…given the quality of debate in the cabinet and the electoral considerations of politicians becoming paramount with an election on the horizon, rational argument is an unfortunate casualty in decision-making,” the daily added.

Equally worrying, the editorial said, is how easily the decision-making process can be manipulated by vested interests, even on the civilian side.

“The outreach to India could be the centerpiece of this government’s foreign policy credentials going into the election; the manifold benefits of trade, including the positive spillover for other security aspects of the fraught Pakistan-India relationship, are undeniable; and with an economy struggling to return to a high growth path, every little bit can help – and yet the process of trade liberalization with India has been gummed up because of parochial interests.”

It went on to say that after over six decades of a “dispiriting” relationship with India, there are few reasons or excuses that have not been proffered to thwart better ties.

“But at least this much has become clear: without bold and courageous political leadership, meaningful improvements in Pakistan-India relations will never materialize,” it said.

“The issues and disputes between Pakistan and India are very real. The hawks on the Indian side are equally real, as is the growing suspicion of Pakistan across the Indian elite in government, civil society and the media. But none of that is reason to stop trying. Trade is a win-win situation for both Pakistan and India; the federal cabinet needs to better educated in the matter,” the daily added.


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