It comes as a big disappointment to see Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif jumping on the trade-with-India bandwagon. At a time when the PPP government was also in favour of cross-border trade, one had thought he would stand up in protest and make his voice heard.

One cannot second his claim made during a seminar at the Lahore Expo Centre that economic ties between India and Pakistan are in their mutual interest. It might be to India’s advantage but not to Pakistan’s because it will be at the receiving end of Indian economy. It stands to reason that since our industry is in death throes owing to shortage of electricity and several other causes, it will not stand the influx of products from across the border. At the end of the day it will be the Indian businessmen who will hold sway over Pakistani markets. This is surely a recipe for disaster for our domestic economy. Our entrepreneurs are, on the other hand, worried whether their products will do good business inside India where the price of local products is lower owing to cheap labour and other factors. It is little wonder that New Delhi is so eager to start bilateral trade.

During the same speech Mian Shahbaz also observed that "we should understand that wars are no solution to prevailing disputes.” There is hardly any doubt that this noble advocacy of peace in the region springs from the same guileless reasoning for bilateral trade. It even overlooks the happenings during the past decade when India was ready to go to war over the slightest of provocations. Its armament programme is also Pakistan specific, which should remove the CM’s misconception. The recent announcement of an Indo-US armament deal worth $8 billion comes as a serious threat to our security. It is only one of the several military deals that our adversary is embarking upon. If India was sincere in resolving major conflicts with Islamabad, it would not have pursued this massive weaponisation. With such war hysteria, it is only wishful thinking to assume that our eastern neighbour has reconciled itself to Pakistan’s existence and intends to co-exist peacefully with us by settling contentious issues, Including Kashmir.

Hence trade with India must be opposed till the core conflict of Kashmir is resolved in line with UNSC resolutions. The logic that economic relations and people-to-people contacts will act as a stepping stone to détente has already increased New Delhi’s belligerence. If the government is so interested in trade with other countries, it should explore the international market. There indeed are prospects, both near and far.