Granting MFN status to India and Kashmir issue
Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat
Pakistan has decided to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, according to Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood added that “granting MFN status to India would help in expanding bilateral trade relations and both sides agreed to remove non-tariff barriers and all other restrictive practices.”
The decision entails moving to a negative list that would restrict the import of only a limited number of items from New Delhi and allow the import of everything else. At present, Islamabad allows the import of only 1,946 items from New Delhi. On the other hand, India does not allow trade of 850 items with Pakistan.
While it is generally recognized that granting the MFN status to India is a welcome step and would facilitate trade between the two countries, there are other factors that should not be ignored in trade with India. These include the core issue of Kashmir. As expected, there was a strong reaction from Kashmiris to the development.
Chairman of the United Jihad Council and supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin said: “Before taking any decision the government of Pakistan should take the leadership of Kashmir into confidence, otherwise, the unilateral decision would make Kashmiris believe that there was a shift in Pakistan’s national policy on Kashmir, which has been the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy for the last 64 years.”
He added: “Pakistan’s likely decision to declare India as Most Favoured Nation would have serious implications for Kashmiris’ ongoing liberation struggle. It is totally incomprehensible and inconceivable decision on the part of government of Pakistan.”
Convener of one faction of APHC Mehmood Ahmed Saghar said Kashmiris would have no objection provided India accepts Kashmiri peoples’ right to self-determination and resolve the long outstanding issue in accordance with the UN resolutions. He said that the government should review and revisit its proposed decision, keeping in view the prevailing political and human rights situation in Kashmir, and devise a policy thereby taking into consideration the aspirations and apprehensions of the people of Kashmiri.
Convener of another faction of APHC GM Safi said, “This is not only against Pakistan’s national interests but also making mockery of Kashmiris’ sacrifices.”
Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition, Chaudhry Nisar, said the decision would not only have an impact on Pakistan’s economy but would also have a geo-political impact on the region.
Considering these strong objections to the move, as Pakistan moves towards granting MFN status to India, it should not drop or change its stance on the issue of Kashmir. Also, all the stakeholders, especially the Kashmiris, should be convinced in this regard.
There has been a suggestion that experts and academicians besides all political parties should give their input on this issue and the parliament should also be consulted. A consensus decision in this regard would be a welcome development.Also, it should be ensured that there is no dumping of goods in Pakistani markets.