Despite extremely strained diplomatic ties with India, the government has been reluctant to use trade as a counterbalancing measure against Indian actions. In the view of Senator Saleem Mandviwalla this was against national interests- and there is some merit to this argument. It is about time that our security policy evolves to see trade as a tool to deter conflict. This will require a bigger role by civilian ministries and private businessmen - if the security establishment can stomach loosening their grip on the reins to share the foreign policy arena.

While the nationalist sentiment to end trade is appreciated, the fact of the matter is that Pakistan has more to lose if trade is ceased completely, than India. Responding to the concerns raised by the PPP senator, the Commerce Minister pointed to this very fact. Pakistan’s bilateral trade amounting to $2.08 billion is a mere 0.4 percent of India’s global trade. Hence trade restrictions on India will have a minimal impact, and will only serve to aggravate the current impasse both countries are stuck in.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s exports to India stand at $3.3058 million and imports from India are mostly raw materials that fuel some of the key industries in Pakistan. If the government applied trade as a retaliatory measure, this would only harm our economy, not India’s.

While economic theories support open borders and free trade, our policymakers cannot overlook and forget the problems and hurdles associated with trade with a hostile neighbour and that is understandable. However, cases are abound where warring states have been able to generate peace through trade, like China and Taiwan and China and India. If trade cannot generate good behaviour from India, we may just need to be okay with that considering we still gain economically from trade. While this may seem drastic, to trade with an enemy, the state and diplomatic machinery has to think about this pragmatically, and squeeze any gain it can from India, even if it is economic.