The Times of India
LAHORE: Can fast-tracking trade relations between India and Pakistan and accelerating economic ties without simultaneously trying to resolve long-standing political disputes , work? The answer emerging at the end of Day 1 of the 2nd Indo-Pak economic conference was nuanced.
While industry leaders want trade to be de-linked now from the political track and accelerated , so that over time the economic dividend would translate into a peace dividend, voices emerged about the need to pursue a political resolution with equal vigour.
Pakistan high commissioner to India Shahid Malik said boosting economic ties “in the short term will lead to a surge in bilateral trade, in the long term, it can be sustained only by political harmony.”
A point made by Maleeha Lodhi, former envoy of Pakistan to the US and UK. Chairing the session: ‘Peace dividends of trade,’ she said as long as there’s a huge trust deficit in both countries, it is highly probable for Indo-Pak relations , especially economic ones, to be hijacked by “an accident or incident” .
Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said her government was absolutely committed to a “peace dividend in South Asia,” and that “hum sab ko aman ki asha hai” . She said while “trade alone may not solve the problem of Jammu and Kashmir, or that of Siachen, trade does unlock some doors…Trade will help dilute bitterness between the two countries.”
Khar said while some irksome trade issues lingered, what she termed discriminatory investment and trade practices targeted at Pakistani investors, her government was “committed to improving trade relations” with India. The question to ask is: “Has the approach of the two countries for 60-odd years worked in resolving important issues? The answer is an emphatic no.” Thus both nations must reject the “war dividend” for a peace dividend, she said.