Rise In Bilateral Trade Hardened India's Position On Kashmir: Abdul Basit

2 February 2015
Livemint
Asit Ranjan Mishra

New Delhi: While businessmen and civil society on both sides of the border are pushing for greater economic linkages between India and Pakistan hoping these will help resolve contentious issues, Pakistan's high commissioner to India Abdul Basit on Monday said increasing bilateral trade has led to India hardening its position on Kashmir. 'The argument is made that if we have more trade and cultural relations, that will help us to create positive environment where it will be possible for the two countries to discuss difficult issues. But if you look around, in the last 10 years or so, bilateral trade between India and Pakistan has increased manifold. What we have seen is, as bilateral trade has increased, we have also witnessed hardening of India's position in Jammu and Kashmir-as evident in cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks in Islamabad which was scheduled for 25 August last year,' he told a conference on Enhancing India-Pakistan trade organized by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). Basit said mutual distrust between the two nations does not allow Pakistan to expand bilateral trade with India beyond a certain limit. 'Our experience tells us that no matter how hard we try, through soft areas, there are inherent limitations in what we do in these areas,' he added. The diplomat said Pakistan cannot put the Kashmir issue at the backburner and move on with other issues. 'We may make progress in some areas in the composite dialogue and some other issue may take longer time, that does not mean we put any issue in the backburner,' he added. Despite India giving the most favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan in 1996, Basit said, balance of trade is heavily skewed in favour of India. 'So there is strong apprehension in Pakistan, that if Pakistan were to extend MFN or non-discriminatory market access to India, we do not know what will happen to our economy,' he said. In order to address Pakistan's concern, Basit said, India have to take certain measures so that Pakistan's exports are enhanced to India. 'For example, we expect India should not apply stringent sanitary and phyto sanitary standards on certain products. At this point of time, we are not in a position to meet those high standards,' he added.