Khurram Dastagir Khan’s recent statement about the Foreign Ministry hampering trade relations is simplistic, and should have been reevaluated, considering he is talking about his own party’s government. The inauguration of the 2nd India Show means that things are moving, but at a snail’s pace. The Indian delegation is here, and many will visit the Expo Centre, but that does not mean that both sides have accepted something, which they have been unable to for the past 66 years. For trade to normalize, more needs to be done by both countries. The lack of trust is not going to help anyone. For a long time, the only form of dialogue for both sides was the weekly telephone conversation at the Line of Control.
The problem however, is not purely the fault of the Foreign Ministry. The PML-N has pushed for trade with India and keeping both Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi in charge is only done so that Nawaz Sharif’s will is imposed in the way he wants. Khurram Dastagir’s offhand remarks are also misguided considering that Pakistan only exports a third of the total trade between the two countries. India’s exports are roughly Rs 2 billion per annum while Pakistan only exported goods worth Rs 1 billion last year. So we clearly need to work on that as well.
There is reportedly a deep-seated reluctance from the armed forces of both sides to engage in constructive trade. The enmity has taken its toll, and looking at each other as the enemy is not going to change in the blink of an eye. Both India and Pakistan would do well to imagine a world where they were friends, and how much simpler everybody’s life would have been. The constant arms race would not have drained our coffers and countless lives would not have been lost.
For starters, visa restrictions need to be relaxed, so that both sides can interact and realize that they are not that different. There is no possible benefit that can be derived from keeping things hostile. One can only hope that both parties see sense, and do what is best for any two nations that share the same border.