Articles of the year 2005

Kashmir Policy
Published on July 13th, 2005

I watched with horror as someone on a television talk show recently explained how "until the Kashmir issue is resolved there can be no trade with India." I agree that the Kashmir problem is of the utmost importance to us. However I do not understand why trade has to be linked to Kashmir.

If we go back to the Independence movement and the creation of the Pakistan State, let us understand that we separated from India because we did not want to live as second class citizens and as a minority. Also the Muslims wanted their own land to live and practice their religion in freedom. Kashmir as a problem arose much later. Many believe that if Kashmir had not happened, the Indians would have invented some other problem.Let us examine the ground realities. T trade between India and Pakistan is already going on. Example: 90 per cent of the tea being consumed in Pakistan is of Indian origin and comes via Dubai or (in the old days Kabul). Indian saris and textiles and even whiskies are readily available in the markets of Lahore.

India has given Pakistan a most favoured nation (MFN) status. Pakistan has not reciprocated. This means that the Indian trader can happily export his goods to Pakistan. With MFN status the Indian government is encouraging exports to Pakistan.i.e the End use country is known and approved by the Indians. Such is not the case for Pakistan, and any export is prohibited by the Pakistani Govt unless specifically allowed as in special cases.The imports from India are in the region of 800 million USD. From Pakistan the figure is vague but nowhere near the Indian.So we have created a situation which favors the Indian Businessman.Let us take a look at the effect of the Visa restrictions.The Traffic between India and Pakistan is 100% Muslims who are visiting friends and relatives. We can be sure that Hindus don't visit Pakistan and the Hindu population in Pakistan is negligible so again it is the Muslim suffering on both sides of the border.Again the Indian Hindus are ahead.

Our pilgrims to Ajmer Sharif are made to suffer and the visits have stopped for the last five years.The suffering experienced by Muslims traveling to or from India cannot be quantified. The treatment meted out to visa applicants in Islamabad by the Indian High Commission is horrific, then they are subjected to further humiliation by our IB operatives who want to know the reasons for the visit etc!Yet in our welcoming and facilitating the Sikh pilgrims we think that this will generate goodwill and support for Pakistan in the Sikh Community in India …….Really! Perhaps we should look at trade, as we have no other levers in our hands. The massacre of Muslims in Gujrat, the Babri mosque we are helpless and cannot do anything to aid our Muslim brothers. Trade could be a lever. Right now we have nothing. Meanwhile the Muslims in India continue to suffer.The Hindus are laughing at our stupidity, and our FO thinks that we are punishing the Indians by not allowing Trade. India is already ahead. By almost 1 billion $.When India wanted to buy our electricity the FO said no. This would have meant more than 2 Billion $ /year.income to Pakistan. The Pakistani Muslim lost out again.Kashmir is being held up as the cause. The sale of electricity would have been a powerful enough lever but it seems our FO thinks otherwise.

If we look deeper at the Kargil episode one can clearly see the exercise was meant to destabilize the improvement of relations between the two countries.Similarly at the Agra summit Nobody still knows what went wrong!It is certainly not the ISI but some senior bureaucrats acting with their counterparts in Delhi.It is not the Army because the Chief was the President and stood to lose the most—and did on the personal capacity .It is not the Businessman because he is not anywhere near this level of Policy making..These forces should be kept in mind and surely they should be reined in.I would like to see a public debate on these issues and maybe it is about time we look at the economic side of the picture and see how we can benefit --- of course without sacrificing Kashmir.