Without diluting its stated position on Kashmir, Pakistan on Thursday articulated a desire to recalibrate its relationship with India that has hinged on hostility till date. Arguing that three wars with and perennial hostility towards India had not achieved any results on outstanding issues, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar made out a case for giving trade and peace a chance.
Briefing mediapersons here on foreign policy initiatives, Ms. Khar was bombarded with questions on the rationale behind normalising trade relations with India by moving towards granting Most Favoured Nation status to a country regarded as ‘Enemy No. 1'.
And, she was steadfast in her responses; maintaining that the current government had been striving hard to improve relations with all its neighbours without being selective. Referring to the Cabinet's decision to switchover from a positive list to a negative list approach for trade with India, she said this would be mutually beneficial and reflected the priority the government attached to the economic development of Pakistan. “We want to work the geo-economics of the region to our advantage.”
Stating that South Asia was the worst performer in regional cooperation and connectivity, Ms. Khar time and again said that normalising trade relations with India in no way meant that Pakistan had diluted its position on Kashmir. “We will continue to engage in meaningful dialogue with India on all issues simultaneously.”
Asked about Pakistan's earlier position that trade with India would be normalised only after there was positive movement from India on Kashmir, the Minister shot back: “If the vision of Mohammad Ali Jinnah is anything to go by, he had bequeathed us normal trade relations with India and that remained the case till 1965.” She maintained that there was a good case for improving ties with India.
Referring to the keenness on both sides to pursue dialogue, Ms. Khar said: “In the past few months, we have been able to build a degree of trust and let us give this track some time. We gave 40 years to war and hostilities and it has not yielded results on Kashmir. Let us give time to this track or do you want to continue with hostilities for another 40 years?”
Of the view that Pakistan had been bogged down by the history of the past 60 years, Ms. Khar sought to dispel the notion that only Pakistan was making concessions while India had not yielded an inch. About the Non-Tariff Barriers that India has, she said three memoranda of understanding had been signed during the Indian Commerce Minister's visit to dismantle them. Also, she flagged the fact that India had dropped its opposition to the time-bound European Union waiver on trade preferences that was offered to Pakistan to help it recover from the devastating floods of 2010.”