Sunday, October 5, 2008

Economics, India and Pakistan

Better trade relations (should) overshadow military might and enmity! India and Pakistan cannot afford to quibble around LOC and Kashmir issues forever. SAFTA is virtually dead just because of cold ties between these two nations. Every time there is a SAARC summit, the central focus is on bitter ties between these two countries rather than on regional trade, poverty, and cooperation.

...Not only does Mr. Zardari want better ties with Delhi, he notes that "there is no other economic survival for nations like us. We have to trade with our neighbors first." He imagines Pakistani cement factories being constructed to provide for India's huge infrastructure needs, Pakistani textile mills meeting Indian demand for blue jeans, Pakistani ports being used to relieve the congestion at Indian ones. For a country that spent most of its existence trying to show that it's the military equal of its neighbor, the agenda amounts to a remarkable recognition of the strides India has made in becoming a true world power.

...To his credit, Mr. Zardari's answer involves more than simply passing around the collection plate. When I ask whether he would consider a free-trade agreement with traditional archenemy India, Mr. Zardari responds with a string of welcome, perhaps even historic, surprises. "India has never been a threat to Pakistan," he says, adding that "I, for one, and our democratic government is not scared of Indian influence abroad." He speaks of the militant Islamic groups operating in Kashmir as "terrorists" -- former President Musharraf would more likely have called them "freedom fighters" -- and allows that he has no objection to the India-U.S. nuclear cooperation pact, so long as Pakistan is treated "at par." "Why would we begrudge the largest democracy in the world getting friendly with one of the oldest democracies in the world?"
More here.