Though Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was a member of the Pakistani delegation that was jointly to inaugurate the trade gate along with an Indian delegation on Friday, his saying that there could be no lasting peace until both sides discussed all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, was no more than the unvarnished truth. It was the expression of a recognition of something that India is refusing to see, or more likely trying to ignore: that normal, peaceful relations on such everyday matters such as trade, will not be possible so long as the two countries have outstanding issues, especially of the size and scope of the Kashmir dispute. The issue not only covers the Siachen boundary dispute, but also is at the root of the water dispute between the two countries. The diversion will only increase with each of the many, many dams India is building in Kashmir are completed, starving Pakistan of its water needs.

At the same time, it seems that Mian Shahbaz too has fallen prey to the Indian propaganda that trade is mutually beneficial, even though the trade gate he went to inaugurate was supposed to accommodate increased trade following Pakistan’s grant of Most Favoured Nation status to India, a step widely expected by experts and industry insiders to open the floodgates in Pakistan for Indian goods, and boost Indian exports, while destroying Pakistani commerce and industry. It is significant that the Chief Minister mentioned that if loadshedding was destroying Pakistani industry, it was our own fault, as India has offered to sell Pakistan electricity, and thus establish a stranglehold on Pakistani industry. India has been backing all those opponents of power plans, the Kalabagh Dam Project being a prime example, which would have saved Pakistan the ignominy of going cap in hand to India.

Those who negotiate with Pakistan should be clear about one thing, and should resist all blandishments to the contrary: that Pakistan must provide diplomatic support to the struggle of the people of Kashmir. That implies not just that they accept the reality that they must also argue for the people of a state identified as Pakistan’s jugular vein by its Founder, but it must also keep in mind the insincerity and duplicity of its interlocutor, India. Nothing proves this duplicity more than its continued illegal occupation of Kashmir, which indeed must end if the two nations are to end the decades-long enmity if their peoples are to get the true fruits of independence, that Mian Shahbaz spoke about.