By Yasir Masood
Newton’s third law of motion and gravitational force states, “to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”, interestingly, it is also considered a quintessential quote in many aspects of life. In consideration of this law, Pakistan’s responses to Indian distressing tactics whether these are economic, religious, societal and political have never been of equal magnitude. At the testing times, Indian threatening, bulldozing and defaming tactical moves against Pakistan have always remained limitless, despite the latter’s taking high moral grounds or go hard at the former. The ongoing atrocities in India-held Kashmir proves to be an epitome of India’s bizarre policy practices.
For Instance, this renewed uprising in Kashmir, and Pakistan’s outright support to their cause as per UN resolution did upset India to the utmost. In retaliation, nervy India pulled out of the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit that was to be held in Islamabad in November this year by bracketing some of the other Saarc members. Unfortunately, India has often been disrespecting Saarc’s charter, and the latest refusal tantamount to the violation of the same. Interference in the internal affairs of the neighbouring countries, with particular reference to promoting and sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan is yet another example as to how Saarc’s charter is being disregarded by India. Up till now, Saarc has neither proved to be a viable economic forum nor has it succeeded in resolving the major disputes between the member states as per its charter.
India has much higher economic benefits at stake, especially under the banner of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). If Pakistan quits Saarc, it will be India and Afghanistan to suffer a lot and not Pakistan. Indian dream of becoming an Asian giant would never materialise, if Pakistan hinders connectivity between India and Afghanistan by refusing the grant of transit rights to India. Pakistan should use this connectivity tool against the Indo-centric Saarc to obliterate India’s evil designs. India will bully the remaining members and only then will they realise the “demy god” nature of India under the shadow of Saarc.
Alternatively, Pakistan should enhance its stakes in Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). ECO is a much wider regional bloc connecting ten Central Asian states. The SCO comprises six members states and will become further wider when India and Pakistan will be granted full membership. Like Saarc, India will never be in a position to influence or manipulate the members of SCO and the ECO to its advantage. Due to these two forums, Pakistan can also repair its relations with Russia; already India feels skeptical about the Russian role in South Asia. Pakistan and Russia are cosying up to each other and the Pak-Russian military drills are a welcome initiative between the two.
Direct air links between India and Pakistan were cut off on January 1, 2002 and the ban continued till January 1, 2004. Highlighting the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, The Hindu, wrote on September 29, 2016 that “If Pakistan retaliates and shut its airspace for Indian aircraft there will be implication for those flying from and to India as the cost of operations will increase from India to the Gulf, Europe, the US and Canada.” The paper further says that the ban could affect international airlines flying from India or Pakistan to other destinations.
Therefore, it must be now Pakistan’s turn to disallow Indian air traffic to fly over its airspace. By doing so, it will be India which will suffer more because there are more weekly flights from India to the West and Central Asia using Pakistan’s airspace. Pakistan hardly uses Indian airspace while flying to East Asia and could easily divert all such flights via the Indian Ocean. Moreover, Pakistan also flies to China and Japan via the Karakoram pass without touching the Indian airspace.
Bilateral trade between India and Pakistan was recorded at US$2.8 billion with US$48.1 million exports from Pakistan to India and 2.4 billion imports from India for the period of 2014 as released by the IMF last year. India is exporting more goods to Pakistan in comparison with its imports from Pakistan, putting the trade balance in favour of New Delhi. If Pakistan cuts off trade with India, following the so-called surgical strikes amid the deteriorating situation across the Line of Control, India would economically suffer more than Pakistan. Pakistan must not be dictated to and bullied by India, just for a peanut of exports to India which has no place in Pakistan’s total global exports.
Similarly, the grant of status of the Most Favourite Nation (MFN) actually has been favouring to promote Indian exports than Pakistan’s exports to India. India, on the other hand, has been pressuring to abrogate the MFN status given to Pakistan, which promotes its trade with the latter. If India does so, it would relatively suffer more than Pakistan, because Indian exports are six times higher than Pakistan’s export to India. Furthermore, it would harm collective Saarc intra-regional trade which is already quite meagre i.e., 2.5 per cent. The investment regime between the two countries is already non-existent. The region is also suffering due to the absence of free trade as members have not signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), except a few ones. India has signed FTAs with small trading partners such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Time has come now, when Pakistan is left with no other option but to turn its defensive postures into offensive ones by restructuring its foreign policy under the “tit-for-tat” kind of strategies to counter all despicable designs of India. Both Pakistan and India are tied up with lots of bilateral engagements that if given up by the former, it would not only culminate the latter’s dominance on the one hand, but also would open up the corridors of opportunities to remodel the former’s economic venture on the other.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2016.