REGARDLESS of our outward bitterness with India, it is rather baffling how the Indian syndrome controls our psyche and the sub-conscious If and when India wants peace we want peace; As and when India wants to play cricket we oblige; When India explodes a bomb we have to follow suit; If India adopts certain economic reforms, this becomes justification enough for carrying out the same measures here; If India goes on a mad defense spending spree we have to match it, and perhaps even our desire of a democratic dispensation is more Indian inspired than due to our own inner convictions. In fact there is this long-standing joke amongst the Pakistani business community that in order to get Islamabad to adopt a policy the lobbying should be done in New Delhi. Well jokes apart, it is somewhat surprising yet heartening to note that it is Pakistan that historically has pioneered prudent and forward looking decision making in our region: Economically, financial reforms and initiatives with a global outlook, free-market approach and with a development focus were first undertaken by Pakistan. They were afterwards imitated by India under Manmohan Singh, Private sector development with an eye on growth through exports was a policy initiated by Ayub back in 60s and much later copied by India, which continued on a socialist model till as late as the early nineties (even South Koreans followed our lead in this sphere). Politically, we always followed 'the look West policy' instead of allying with Russia, only to see India make a U-turn once the iron curtain fell. And socially, it will not be an exaggeration to say that only until a few years, every Indian secretly desired to live the lifestyle of a Pakistani. Sadly though, while others flourished and progressed by adopting policies engineered by us, we simply wilted under mismanagement and lack of self-belief. At a recent SAARC Conference in Chandigarh, once again I was pleasantly surprised to find, and that also courtesy Indian professors and researchers, that amongst the SAARC countries Pakistan ranked at the very top in terms of an economy being most open to free trade and, ironically, India ranked at the bottom of the list - not just within SAARC, but also billed as being one of the most restrictive economies of the world. Upon discovering this while my first reaction was that of jubilation, I rushed to pray that this remains a closely guarded secret from the decision makers in Islamabad, because if history is anything to go by, they would not be wasting much time in following the Indians and moving towards increased protectionism, which given the present global recession-cum-meltdown can prove to be a recipe for disaster for the future outlook-cum-development of the Pakistan economy. If the world leaders are today looking for a concrete and immediate measure to break the current economic impasse, they can look at the fast emerging candidate, 'The Concluded Doha Round'. Leaders of the G-20 and developing nations should signal without wasting more time that they will conclude the next, critical phase in the Doha round of world trade talks. Such a signal would be very clear: While we fix the global financial system, there will be no retreat into protectionism and this way the global economy will remain open for business. Although the last round of negotiations in July failed, the nine days of talks made more progress than ever before in closing in on a Doha deal. Eight percent of the key questions on the negotiating table in Geneva had been resolved when the talks collapsed. The negotiations stalled on the technical question of how fast commodity exports from big farm producers like the US could rise from year to year. The issue is more a symbol with little substance. Once again it is the leading economies of the world that tend to be obstacles in the way of reaching an agreement. India continues to harp on the tune to defend its subsistence farmers from subsidized exports at any cost, US, on the other hand, feels frustrated as it has made its own promises to its bulk farm commodity exporters about opening developing-country markets in exchange for reducing US agricultural subsidies. An agreement in today's times can have far reaching effects. A successful Doha round would produce an essentially tariff-free trans-Atlantic marketplace and, at the same time, would push down average tariffs in the large emerging economies of Brazil, China and India into single digits for the first time. It would cut tariffs on vital food imports globally by up to two-thirds. Also, it would reform farm supports in both the EU and the US so that they no longer hurt farmers in poor countries. Further, a deal (like the one on the table) would be an insurance policy against future protectionism. In today's difficult economic circumstances, a global agreement to deliver such a boost would be an invaluable sign that the world's new economic order is capable of the concerted action that people across the globe are looking for. A Doha deal would also strengthen the World Trade Organization, which is one of the few international institutions that offer a full roll to all stakeholders. Given the present global political tensions, we desperately need such institutions in the years ahead. In the same way that the Uruguay world trade agreement in 1994 helped lay the foundations for a decade of trade growth, Doha (if accomplished) can be the basis for the next 10 years of growth. A Doha agreement will be a global public good that can help us lay the framework for a long-term climb out of the present global slowdown. As for Pakistan, we need to make sure that we stay firm on the course of promoting free and fair trading economy both at home and abroad, that we avoid temptation of protectionism, even if it means overcoming our natural instinct to simply emulate Indian policy leads, because in spite of the current scepticism over free trade, there is little doubt that the future of Pakistan's 'growth and progress lies within the WTO framework and not outside of it.