Perhaps nothing could have better illustrated the true nature of the Pakistani decision on Wednesday to trade with India on the basis of a negative list for 2012, and then to abolish that list, than the respective reactions. While Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna immediately welcomed the decision, it was not until Thursday that the Minister actually in charge, Commerce Minister Anan Sharma, welcomed the move. This alone should have shown that India thought itself to have achieved a foreign policy goal, not a mere commercial one. That Pakistani opinion was disapproving showed that the decision did not make economic sense, and certainly made sense only for India in the foreign policy sense. The Pakistani decision, formally taken by the Cabinet on Wednesday, was merely a step towards Pakistan granting India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status it covets. It must not be thought that India has any genuine commercial motives behind obtaining this status. While it has mercantilist motives foremost, in which it assumes that the purpose of trade is to impoverish its partner and transfer its wealth to itself, with Pakistan it has the additional motive of making it keep quiet about the core issue between the two, Kashmir.

Even without granting India MFN status, Pakistan has done enough to sink its trade and industry, already buffeted by the energy shortages afflicting the whole country. Only a few importers will benefit from the open trade with India that will take place after the abolition of the negative list. The motivating force for this is not the business community, but the USA, as it has adopted the trade route as the road to peace between the two countries, which it can use both on its old friend, Pakistan, and the power it is building as a regional counterweight to China, India. Among the many favours it is showering on India is the solution of its many regional problems. The trade process with India thus has a political dimension beyond the two countries actually involved.

The government should take due note that the decision has raised a storm of protest. This is motivated by a regard for the welfare of the country. Thus the government should reverse the decision, if need be in another Cabinet session. It must also take all necessary measures to bring Kashmir back onto the bilateral agenda.