"Pitty those who can not differentiate friend from a foe and take the foes to be their well wishers." Raja Mujtaba

By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

Whereas, according to Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistanhas decided in principle to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India,” the question arises, would there be some concession from Indian side in reciprocation. Though India has already granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996, but events followed thereafter and particularly after 9/11, were against the spirit of bilateralism or even good neighbourly relationship. The incumbent FM said in her statement in National Assembly that this is being done owing to a number of “achievements” at the bilateral level. However, these achievements are imperceptible as yet.

The honourable Minister reminded the legislatures that India agreed to resume the dialogue process after a pause of two years, therefore; perhaps such a step would be essential to further this process. She said that, “We want progress on not just one but a number of issues with India on permanent basis besides normalization of overall bilateral relations.” Earlier Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the Commerce Minister has expressed similar sentiments during his Mumbai tour in September 2011. Amin Fahim even stated in Mumbai that, “there was a strong opinion in his country that India should be given the Most Favoured Nation status,” indeed quite contrary to national sentiments. Sources from India are reporting that the Minister was paid a hefty amount to extract this favour. This position needs to be cleared.

It is unclear as yet that, whether this is a unanimous decision of the parliament or incumbent Government or individual choices of these two ministers, after they got appreciation either for their outlook or liberalistic views for their host, however, such decisions should not be taken in haste. After all, those who ruled Pakistan since 1996, must had some logic for not granting such a status to India. It is submitted for the kind considerations and information of these honourable ministers that, the Composite Dialogue Process between India and Pakistan started in 1997. The Nawaz Sharif Government had exceptional relationship with India from 1997 to 1999, except for the bad patch of Kargil conflict.

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So much so, during this tenure then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Pakistan by road and made a very strong Indian commitment for a better bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan. But, even being a businessman Pakistani Prime Minister having 2/3rd majority in the Parliament, Nawaz sharif did not grant MFN status to India. Indeed, India came closer to Pakistan for the first time during that period. What were the considerations and logics behind for not giving India the status of MFN must be known to that Government. However, then Government was all out to enhance trade and business with India. Even India was ready to purchase electricity from Pakistan, which was surplus to our needs then.  

In the subsequent tenure, during the Military Government of President Pervaiz Musharraf, there have been a number of occasions where, India and Pakistan came closer to each other, where Pakistan could have offered such a concession in lieu of Indian willingness to resume the composite dialogue process particularly after the 12th SAARC Summit on January 6, 2004. Upon successful conclusion of this Summit in Islamabad, President Musharraf and Indian Premier AB Vajpayee agreed to resume the long suspended composite dialogue processes. These dialogues were to address all issues including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

In fact, from 2004 to 2007, there have been lot of CBMs between India and Pakistan and real developments were made on some of the issues. A number of working groups were established in order to find out the solutions of some of the complicated issues like Kashmir, Siachin and Sir Creek, in fact a real progress. However, the grant of MFN status was neither demanded nor became a hurdle in the Indo-Pak dialogue process. Unfortunately, sequel to Constitutional Crisis in Pakistan in March 2007, the process of composite dialogue and progress made on them met inordinate delay and retarded thereafter, until suspended following the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008.

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Compared to these two periods; 1997-1999 and 2004-2007, what new and special concessions India has offered to Pakistan, which became compelling factors for our abovementioned ministers to fight Indian case for the grant of MFN to India. Has India stopped human rights violations in its occupied portion of Jammu and Kashmir or decided to do away with the construction of over 100 dams and reservoirs, intended to stop the Pakistani water from three Western rivers, whose water is totally dedicated for Pakistan. Besides, has India promised to stop supporting the Baloch Sub-nationalists and so-called Islamic terrorists in FATA and other parts of Pakistan?  What about the Siachin and Sir Creek issues. If some of these are security issues, but have definite linkages with economy of Pakistan. Indeed, all are having economic repercussions.

Perhaps, MFN status has something to do with the economy and industrial development of Pakistan. Compared to India, Pakistani economy has weak foundation. Its industry is already sick and facing worst crisis of its history.  It has fallen prey to domestic instability, law and order situation and insecure from the investment point of view.  Besides, owing to the power shortages and lack of secure environment, the local business class is taking out its assets for investment elsewhere especially in secure countries. Under such insecure conditions, Pakistan cannot expect foreign direct investment (FDI).  This would be ideal time for India to flood our markets with Indian goods, after the grant of MFN.

I would not say that over the period of time such a favourable environment has been deliberately created for India to destroy Pakistani economy and industry for ever. But surely, given such a status (MFN) under the prevailing circumstances, where Pakistani industry and economy is highly vulnerable and fragile one can expect even more than this hypothesis. After such a status, there would be dumping of so-called cheap Indian goods in Pakistani markets. For those unaware of its implication, “Dumping means dropping goods below cost so that the industry of the local country can be destroyed. Then the foreign entity can have a monopoly for decades to come.”

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 Are we really geared up for such an eventuality? If yes, then be ready for loosing our identity too. After all we are already under the grip of Indian cultural invasion in Pakistan. Thereafter, India can sell us cheap food items, compared to the costlier Pakistani ones. For this purpose, tomorrow we may be asked by India to surrender the remaining portion of waters, currently irrigating our fertile lands.  We must understand that one after other we are giving-in a lot and no one realizes that.

The need of hour is that on such issues of national interests, there should be establishment of working groups of technical experts and academicians and national think tanks, whose recommendations should be debated in the Parliament for a consensus decision.  Since a formal decision has yet to be made, therefore, let us do it even now, before, personal relations prevail over national interests.

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