Trade with India

Ties with India have remained at a standstill since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government abolished Occupied Kashmir’s special status in August of 2019. Islamabad has made its stance clear time and again that unless the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime revokes its 2019 decision, Pakistan will not hold any official talks with India, including that on the resumption of trade between the two countries. In this backdrop, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood’s recent statement on supporting trade with India is rather odd but not unfounded. The Ministry of Commerce has even previously tried to push the federal government to resume trade ties with the neighbouring country. Last year, in March, the federal cabinet had also rejected the ministry’s summary of imports of sugar, cotton and yarn from India.

Though hostilities have marked the political relationship between India and Pakistan, the fact that two countries that share over 3,000 kilometres long border and have so much in common do not engage in commerce is unfathomable. Bilateral trade between Pakistan and India is worth billions of rupees and has been gravely impacted since the two countries put a halt to it. As a result, thousands of traders, contractor, and middlemen in both countries have lost millions over the past few years. In fact, the bilateral trade between the Saarc countries projected to grow at a level of $40 billion in a span of just few years has also been adversely affected. Even in his recent statement, Dawood maintained that “the trade with India is very beneficial to all, especially Pakistan”.

This is not to say that Pakistan should forgo the Kashmir cause and work towards trade resumption as this country has time and again offered an olive branch to the hardline BJP regime. It is now on the PM Modi-led government to shed its anti-Pakistan stance and think about the welfare of the millions residing in the subcontinent. From an economic perspective, resumption of trade will give Indian exports a boost as Pakistan will be able to import cheaper goods from across the border. The Indian government should devise a strategy to bring Pakistan on the table and talk about wide ranging issues between the two estranged neighbours. One must remember the wise words of a French economist from the 18th century: “When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.”