Post-Zardari visit, it would be in order to visualise the future prospects of Pak-India relations. Both the leaders reportedly agreed to inch ahead, in their words, ‘take a step-by-step approach’ towards normalisation. Viewing the steps so far taken since the composite dialogue process began early 2004, one finds that, though some moves have been made that could fall under the definition of ‘normalisation’, not even a relatively minor dispute, let alone the core issue of Kashmir that is of major concern to Pakistan, has inched any closer to solution. Meetings after meetings have produced thoroughly banal statements of ‘constructive and fruitful dialogue’ having taken place. The reality instead is that disputes have become more complicated, with Kashmir giving birth to the illegal diversion of waters by India, threatening the very survival of Pakistan’s economy. None of Islamabad’s legitimate concerns have been addressed; rather, acts of terrorism falsely blamed on Pakistan – the abortive attack on the Indian Parliament and the Mumbai massacre, for example – have, in the eyes of New Delhi, assumed priority over all otherwise pressing issues. In all this, the Indian strategy of raising new bogeys and endlessly moaning about them to overshadow other disputes is clearly discernable. If anything, Islamabad has ceded ground, the latest instance being the decision to grant the Most Favoured Nation status to India.
The President’s Sunday visit, termed by Prime Minister Gilani part of track-II diplomacy, squarely falls in line with the above assessment. “Common desire” to normalise relations has been followed by pointing fingers at Hafiz Saeed but not proffering any legally sustainable evidence of his involvement in the Mumbai incident. And the media hype about the acceptance of Mr Zardari’s proposal to Dr Singh to visit Pakistan would automatically stand deflated since Indian official sources have maintained that the visit will only take place after the dialogue process between the two countries makes significant progress. In any case, those hoping for a breakthrough or even some progress on issues of vital concern to Pakistan during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit were living in a fool’s paradise.
Prime Minister Gilani’s revelation that China, citing its own example, prompted Pakistan to expand trade relations with India must be judged in a different perspective. Beijing, with a larger economy (probably, already the largest in the world having left behind the US, according to some experts) producing cheaper goods could afford to develop commercial ties with New Delhi, even though it also has disputes with it. Its goods have flooded the Indian market to the consternation of local industrialists and protests against China for ‘dumping’ them. But Pakistan is a different kettle of fish. Starved of water and power and industrial units closing down, its merchandise is not up for grabs in the competitive market of today. And adding bias to the potion would make them lethal in the eyes of the Indians. Only their goods would flood our market sounding a death knell to our industrial dream.