TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI - tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com
Mar 9 - 15, 2009

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it...." Warren Edward Buffett, one of the most inspiring personalities of this century, an American business magnate-cum-philanthropist, who has $62 billion net share holdings-almost half of GDP of Pakistan-said this in a contextual framework and perhaps was oblivious of his words befitting feeble Indo-Pak relationship. That even though never tasted the time of sustainable stability if otherwise treaded on the road of reconciliation is either buffeted or hamstrung at the behest of stake. Causes of disagreement are many, emanating easily out of conspiracies that need not to be directly executed to engender bilateral animosity, as indirect attempt will remain as popular in fanning disputes between Pakistan and India. It seems Pakistan and India are all-time eager to draw draggers on each other and have armed spin-doctors to bombard volley of words against each other. Maybe this historical trend also could not bring South and North Koreas close after division of peninsula eight and half month following independence of Pakistan and India from British rule.

The biggest victim of Indo-Pak weakest link is certainly trade and industries of both the countries, which could enhance bilateral trade substantially by strengthening cooperation in different fields to benefit people of dual nations. Business communities have identified several areas of cooperation where both nations can complement each other. Gemstones, agriculture goods, textile, leather, iron, steel, energy, and tea are diagnosed main products bilateral trade can benefit from. An editorial of an Indian newspaper assuredly said India could become a potential market of some Pakistan's agriculture products. There are undesirable tariff and non-tariff barriers on both sides removal of which will be advantageous for enhancement of bilateral trade volume.

It is an irony that simmering tensions evoke imposition or re-imposition of tariffs on products traded between India and Pakistan. Engrained deep-rooted politics in economies of India and Pakistan spur strict stances by both the countries on commerce fronts in case of internal disturbances. Therefore, they resort to tariff and non-tariff barriers on products reciprocally after any untoward and unpleasant situation. These emotionally charged actions promote bilateral trade through other channels, terribly unraveling tax revenue losses. For example, negative listed Indian products land in Pakistan via Dubai or smuggling channelized them in Pakistani markets. Sustainable development policy institute estimated informal trade at around $500 million, primarily import from India via Dubai to Pakistan. While that is an outdated estimate, analyses by the World Bank have been mentioning greater potential for India-Pak trade especially in light manufactured products.

At present, the extent of victimization befalls heavily on Pakistan than India that has as always enjoyed trade surplus in bilateral trade with Pakistan. Things could have been better for Pakistan too had docility of these nations not dragged them at loggerheads repeatedly by a collusive stir. Belligerence of warmongers either side of the border of India and Pakistan crumble every attempt of rapprochement, surviving on the perennial issue of Kashmir that has been a real cause of disagreement and caused three wars fought over it, one that culminated in severance of Pakistan's east and west parts. When the main issue does not create problem, certain caustic acts compel winding of struggles towards building of amicable atmosphere.

Recent two bouts of spurt to disintegration were attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore and Mumbai pogrom just a couple of months back. Trade talks between India and Pakistan had postponed to indefinite period following terroristic attacks in financial hub of India in November last year. A couple of months back to this attack, an atmosphere of trusts had been gathering up. Bilateral social parleys, exchange of expertise and talents in showbiz industry, inter-governmental consent to softening of travel visa criteria were signaling good signs about possible transformation to friendly neighbors from warring nations.

In a meeting in September-end in New York, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had agreed to all permissible items of trade, according to a report by South Asian News Agency. They had agreed to cement commerce and bilateral ties and open trade across four points: Wagah-Attari, Khokhrapar-Munabao, cross LoC trade Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot. In addition, SECP and Security and Exchange Board of India had signed a MoU to help and cooperate for ensuring bilateral participation in capital markets of Pakistan and India. To the dismay of pro-peace, sane people of both the countries, however, Mumbai attack rolled back dream of good relation to a distanced reality. India openly pinned responsibility of the attack on Pakistan that later consented with the idea of non-state actors being behind the attack. Comments of intellects at that time had been sending calls to keep rationality alive. Notably, Pakistan Ambassador to US, Hussain Haqqani told CNN, "It is important to understand that this is an opportunity for India and Pakistan to work together". Was that not a comprehensible insinuation to circumvent becoming targets of conspiracy? Maybe not, as next incident-that took five lives during an ambush on visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in Shakespearean dreaded March-after two month of Mumbai attack dimmed unseen benefit that appeared at the prospect of Pakistan's satisfactory follow-up of the attack. This time wave of paranoia engulfed the other side. Fingers were pointed at India officially and unofficially. In opinion of a Karachi-based industrialist "this attack was a last nail" in the coffin.

Overcoming militancy has become a national issue and like other countries Pakistan is also threatened with the increasing activities of religious bigots, mercenaries, and underserved-tuned-militants. There is an urgent need that South Asian countries, in general, and Pakistan and India, in particular, ponder over positively the causes and elimination tactics of terrorism, which is an obstacle in the way of economic well being of their people. Being bull eye to terroristic forays, now Pakistan and India should wriggle out of historical differences and not let bilateral economic relation fall prey to conspiracy theories. Track-II diplomacy may be relevant in this regard. A kick to SAARC to awaken it from the deep slumber is also relevant in designing regional strategies to cope up with the situation.