Allegations regarding cross-border infiltration, refugees, drug trafficking, militant groups, territorial claims and disputes over counterterrorism policy have played a major role in increasing trust deficit and eroding bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. One can witness the impact of such allegations and blame games beyond the security sector. The hard approach both sides took in the past, instead of relying on diplomacy, never allowed the two countries to build strong economic and trade relations. Despite all these problems, in terms of volume, Pakistan and Afghanistan have both been one of the largest trading partners for the other for quite some time.

However, recent events have detrimentally affected economic and business ties between the two neighbours. For almost 22 months, the governments of both countries stopped any kind of dialogue and cooperation in the trade and business sector. Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan fell by a staggering 27 percent in just the last year, not to mention that trade volume has steadily been dropping since 2015. Nonetheless, in a major development, Islamabad and Kabul have decided to resume a high level dialogue by arranging a meeting of the Pak-Afghan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) next month in Kabul. The initiative in this regard was taken by Kabul, as Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal, suggested resuming talks in a meeting with Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar on Wednesday.

If the proposed meeting takes place, it will open up new vistas for the business communities of both countries. Cooperation between the businessmen of both countries will also lead to a valuable arrangement, where both societies begin interacting together in mutually beneficial ways that imply receptivity and respect.

In addition to economic benefits, working together will provide a platform for people from both sides to meet, exchange ideas and develop the much-needed interaction for building a peaceful future, though some commentators may argue that peace should first be established. However, instead of insisting on sticking to this approach, a better way would be to create incentives to help in reaching peace. And that is where business and economic collaboration can play a perfect role. These two factors have historically served as agents of constructive change.