To our detriment!

Minister Makhdum Amin FahimCommerce Minister Makhdum Amin Fahim in a meeting with Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma at New Delhi made a commitment, though not an agreement, to double trade between the two countries. It is to be presumed that India intends to carry over the surplus on the bilateral trade, and if the present trend continues, it would have a surplus of $2billion; presently it has a surplus of $1 billion.No one would object to profits made on a fair trade, but Makhdum Amin took a list of non-tariff barriers that India has erected, and though he did not get an agreement to end them, he showed thereby how India has built its large surpluses with neighbouring countries; by unfair trade practices, which it would like to extend to Pakistan, so that it could draw it into its neo-imperialist, mercantilist, system. To this end, the two countries have also agreed to open a new customs point at a place not yet announced.

India has also announced the end of its veto in the World Trade Organisation to the European Union’s giving of some trade concessions to Pakistani textiles. This is not as great a concession as it seems, because the Indian objection was likely to fail, and the EU decision was likely to be upheld.The basic point in trade negotiations with India is that they are taking place at the Indian behest because it wishes to pretend to the world community that its relations with Pakistan are basically normal, and there are good reasons for further normalisation.

However, that should not detract from the reality that it would not hold trade talks if its nontariff barriers had not ensured a trade surplus for it, and if that surplus did not help it pay the costs of the occupation it maintains of Kashmir, whose people it has denied their inalienable right of self-determination despite their six decades of struggle.

The trade talks, though they might indeed be the first between ministers after 35 years, form part of the composite dialogue between the two countries, and have been meant more to satisfy a third party, the USA, than achieve anything tangible. The old mantra of people-to-people contacts has not yielded results, so now there is the hope the links of the trade community would result in greater links being created.

Though trade linkages have their own dynamic, they are not strong enough to overcome the barrier created by India’s intransigence over Kashmir, even though there has been an attempt to create an intra-Kashmir linkage through both trade and people-to-people contact. Pakistan must be wary that these trade talks are not misused by India to project to the world community a weakening by Pakistan in its principled stand. – Nation