Pakistan’s military establishment will block bilateral trade. India should not.
Lahore’s Daily Times has a scathing editorial on the recent SAARC summit where it points out that “Pakistan must be the rare country that uses a banker prime minister to block trade”. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, it says, “is changing his stripes”. That’s an unfair accusation, because Shaukat Aziz has been consistent in putting the Kashmiri cart before the Trade horse.
As you have read on this blog, this is only to be expected. The Pakistani military establishment knows that the hostility to India that it needs to remain in power will be badly undermined by trade. For that reason, progress on bilateral trade has been even more ‘glacial’ than that over Kashmir.
Yet, by announcing unilateral trade concessions with all its neighbours except Pakistan, India is playing into the hands of the Pakistani military establishment. Despite having an economist as prime minister, the Indian government has not yet understood that lowering barriers to trade with Pakistan—whether reciprocated or not—is in India’s interests.