When it comes to Pakistan, we often see the government bending backward in trying to woo Pakistanis. In a way, the tone and tenor of Commerce and Industry Minister'sinauguration speech at the India-Pakistan Joint Study Group meeting in Delhi was no surprise.The minister made no secret of his overwhelming feelings as if he has got a sort of a commercial breakthrough. He wanted Pakistani officials to go back with the message that India was almost desperate to trade with them.
The response from Pakistani Commerce Secretary, Tasneem Noorani was quite stiff. ?We have come here to study the Indian trade regime,? he said on the opening day of the Commerce Secretary-level Joint-Study Group meeting.There was a slight change in his stiff-neck approach on the second day of the talks. He pointed out the Indian irritants for the Pakistani businessmen. Noorani would like India to give its neighbour special treatment. ?We know India'snon-tariff barriers and tariff structure is not specific to Pakistan as to go along the MFN way. But still, these technical barriers and tariff disparity block our exports to India.?? By their own admission, India is treating Pakistan like rest of the world, following the MFN (most favoured nation) rule of the World Trade Organisation. (The term MFN is a misnomer since it does not mean giving the favoured treatment. On the contrary, it means that a particular country would not be discriminated against). Fair enough! India is not doing any discrimination against Pakistan because it gives its neighbour the MFN status. How does the neighbour reciprocate? It would not give us the MFN treatment. Simply put, it would discriminate against the Indian trade and yet ask India to do more. It goes to the credit of Indian enterprise that despite being discriminated against, the growth of our exports to Pakistan far outpaced Pakistani exports to India. If Kamal Nath had his way, he would go and sign a Free Trade Area Agreement with Pakistan, opening the vast Indian market to them and still conveying this impression to our friends across the border that they are doing us a favour. Pakistanis suspect that by talking too much about trade, India is laying a trap for them. They think it is an Indian ploy for making them stop parroting Kashmir as being the core issue.With this thought in mind, Noorani would insist time and again that trade was only one of the eight issues in the composite dialogue framework.
But Pakistan has become an obsession with our government, faithfully supported by the business chambers. Why can'twe treat them in a matter-of-fact way? Why should we go overboard giving this elated feeling to the Pakistanis as if they are our indispensable business partners? If our neighbours want to import medicines at a price 10 times higher than that from India, let them do so. Let them buy Indian goods through a third country. Who loses most in the bargain? They, not we!. The trouble with us is that we would like trade to be the real ?harbinger? of peace. Why can'twe do trade the way it should be done? Why be sentimental about it?