Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has said that there is no proposal under ‘immediate consideration’ to give India Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status. Though in the present tense situation created by India, this is a no-brainer, Senator Dar’s statement caused ripples after the government's unusually tolerant atmosphere of India, even as the LoC heats up. An agreement which was badly made in the first place under Indian influence could have been shepherded through by some unimaginative bureaucrat, but from the source of the news, it appears Mr Dar has been made to put his foot down.

The statement, which came during Senator Dar’s appearance on a TV programme, also coincides with the tension between the two countries, which has reached new levels since India concocted a story about Pakistan involvement in the cases of alleged killings of Indian troops on the LoC.

The MFN decision, taken by the previous government, was not just flawed because it entered the negotiations without insisting that India first resolve all outstanding issues, with that of Kashmir being uppermost, but because it failed to make sure that the concerns of its agriculture were addressed, or that there was any mechanism to ensure that India tore down the non-tariff barriers it used to protect its trade and industry. In short, India made sure that the agreement suited its ends, opening Pakistani markets to Indian goods, while keeping Indian markets closed to Pakistani. Granting MFN status would have meant the destruction of Pakistani commerce and industry through cheap competition it is simply not prepared to face. It should not be forgotten that India’s desire for trade relations is only because it runs up a trade surplus with India every year.

It is perhaps a salutary reminder to the government that agreements on such an apparently non-political matter as trade cannot be made unless political issues have been solved. While the Kashmir issue is kept off the negotiating table by India, it should not hope to strike trade deals with Pakistan. It is perhaps appropriate that firing on the LoC was the reason that this particular agreement failed to take off, at least for now.

That is another thing the present government must ensure: that the MFN agreement is not revived, at least not in its present shape. If the premieres of the two countries meet at the UN, the atmosphere must be made conducive for trade negotiations by a solution of all outstanding political issues, like Kashmir. India must not only adjust for Pakistani agriculture, but also tear down the non-tariff barriers behind which it protects its own industry. But so far, it appears Indian politicians will go to any end to win an election, even if it means indulging in viciously irresponsible propaganda, against a country which is extending a hand of friendship.