Reportedly, the grant of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, agreed upon in principle, is likely to be delayed by a week or so; instead of December 31 it would be some time in the first week of January 2013 when it would come into force. The reason: the federal cabinet that has to give the final ‘go ahead’ would not be able to meet before early next year because of its involvement in observing the birth anniversary of the Quaid-i-Azam and the death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto.

Historically and on legitimate grounds, we have been opposed to developing commercial relations with New Delhi before it comes around to resolving the core issue of Kashmir in line with the aspirations of the people of the disputed state. The favour of MFN would, it is a foregone conclusion, tend to further harden its already recalcitrant posture, not induce it to settle it, as argued by the proponents of trade with India. Thus, the hope or the desire expressed by Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, when the APHC Chairman called on the PML-N President in Lahore on Friday, that trade relations should not be allowed to impinge upon the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, is not likely to come true. In fact, it is a patently facile hope! One wonders how they could expect the Indian leadership to change its stand when even now, with the prospect of getting the MFN status in sight – their long-standing wish – they insist on calling the disputed state ‘atoot ang’ (integral part) of India; they are ready to hold negotiations on Kashmir only if it is about determining the final status of Azad Kashmir. Besides, the MFN has come at a most inauspicious moment when our industry, thanks to long hours of loadshedding, is in utter ruin. That would facilitate the Indian goods to swamp our market, also because they are much cheaper and because the negative list is being phased out. For these very reasons as well as the trade barriers that New Delhi has laid for our exports, Pakistani goods would not find much access to the Indian market.

The people at large, apart from the commercial community that could stand to gain, are not in favour of the decision either. It is strange that in the rush to normalise relations with the eastern neighbour our leaders are turning a blind eye to the singular importance of Kashmir to Pakistan. Apart from other factors like the Muslim majority state and the dispute being the leftover agenda of partition, Kashmir is vital to Pakistan’s survival and that is becoming increasingly apparent with the uncontrolled diversion of our share of water by India for its own use. Would that the government has the sense to look before leaping into the abyss of dependence on India!