Saturday, 21 January 2012

Relations between Pakistan and India will improve, Mani Shankar Aiyar

Here's a small video clip of Mani Shankar's interview.

            Mani Shankar Aiyar is a known member of Indian Parliament. He has also served as Indian counsel in Karachi for three years in early 90s. I was fortunate to talk to him on his recent visit to Pakistan. He came to Pakistan with 15 other Indian Parliamentarians including , film star turned politician, Shaturgan Sinha. This was the third round of Parliamentary dialogue between Parliamentarians from both India and Pakistan. For this session, the main topic of discussion was how to improve trade between the two countries. Parliamentarians from both countries have devised a set of recommendations, which they will present to their respective governments.

                The current trade volume between Pakistan and India is roughly 2 billion dollars annually, this is a very low figure. According to many financial experts, the unregistered trade between India and Pakistan, through Dubai and through smuggling of goods, is approximately 10 billion dollars. There is no doubt, that with more relaxed policies, trade volume between two countries can increase significantly. With more trade, people on both side of the border will eventually prosper. It is interesting to note that at the time of partition in 1947, more than 70 percent of Pakistan's trade was with India and 63 percent of India's trade was with Pakistan. But this trend couldn't continue for long. And the trade  between the countries came to a complete halt after the 1965 war. The trade remain suspended until the bilateral trade agreement was signed between the two countries in 1975 for only a period of three years. Many positive steps have been taken in recent history to improve this very complicated relationship, but no significant results were seen

           However, seasoned Indian politician Mani Shankar, believes that the relationship between Pakistan and India will strengthen. While talking to me he emphasized that trade helps build relationships and good relationships help getting more business opportunities. Shankar said that government from both sides have full backing of their nations. People from both India and Pakistan and especially the business communities want better relations. The business community overall in Pakistan is also in favor of granting MFN status to India. They believe that this would open a market of more than 1 billion people for Pakistan. Mani Shankar very optimistically closed the conversation saying that he along with other Indian parliamentarians will give the set of recommendations to Indian Commerce Minister, who will soon visit Pakistan. And he expects that the minister will make some important announcement when he comes to Pakistan.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A Rift between Pakistan's Military and Government

  I also made a news report on this topic for ARY NEWS, have a look at it

            Pakistan has seen decades of military rule, which understandably has created rivalry among Pakistan's military establishment and the civil government. It is obvious that there is huge trust deficit among Pakistan's present government and military. This trust deficit has become more apparent with the controversial memo case. We saw that while Chief of Army Staff, Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani was in China, Prime Minister gave an interview to Chinese newspaper, China Daily. PM stated in the interview that the affidavits presented directly to Supreme Court by DG ISI and the COAS for the memo case investigation were unconstitutional and illegal. This got a lot of attention on media as COAS was still in China. As a reaction of the interview, the information wing of military, ISPR, issued a press release, highly criticising PM's interview. The press release by ISPR stated that there could be no blame on COAS more serious than calling his actions unconstitutional. Immediately after issuance of ISPR's statement, the Prime Minister hurriedly took a decision which for a moment made us thought that there is actually going to be a military coup. PM, sacked the defence secretary and gave this position as additional charge to a well known and a qualified bureaucrat, Nargis Sethi. This action of PM, not only got huge coverage in the national media, but was widely reported in international media. Things got better when the PM the same evening, while talking to reporters said that the COAS had informed him before issuing the press release.

              Although it seems that things are getting better between the two, especially after President's meeting with the COAS, but in reality we know that the two very important entities are not on the same page. This tension among Pakistan's military and government and between the judiciary and government are disastrous for Pakistan. This creates anxiety among the public. People start fearing of an unpredictable future. And not only domestically, this badly tarnishes Pakistan's image worldwide. The investors get more suspicious of investing in Pakistan. Foreign companies already working in Pakistan become unsure about political stability.

             Only political stability in this country can bring economic stability. No matter how bad this government is, there should be no unconstitutional steps taken. Many analysts do believe that in current scenario there is no fear of a military coup, but the fear of this overwhelms the civilian government. And this fear is reflected when the PM, takes hasty decisions such as sacking of the defence secretary. We hope that our political and military leaders sit together and talk, negotiate and plan things privately for the betterment of Pakistan. By giving statements on media against each other, we make the world believe that we are not together and this is dangerous for Pakistan. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Tumultous Relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. in 2011

                        Pakistan has a  history of  having difficult relations with the U.S. It has always been a relationship based on interests and that is the primary reason  for Pakistan not having a stable relationship with the U.S. But in past ten years, 2011 has been extremely tough for these two countries.

               The biggest set back to this relationship in 2011, started with the Raymond Davis case. The CIA contractor had killed two Pakistani citizens in Lahore. It was this particular case which made the general population aware of CIA's presence in Pakistan. Although Raymond Davis case was resolved, but it highly ignited Anti-American sentiment in Pakistanis. The memory of this particular issue was still fresh among Pakistanis that an another devestating incident took place. This was the attack of U.S. forces on Pakistan's land to kill Osama Bin Laden. This was highly embarssing for Pakistanis all over th world. Worl'd most dangerous and top terrorist was found just few miles away from Pakistan's Military Academy. Killing Osama Bin Laden was a big success for the U.S., but it left Pakistan divided. Killing of OBL created huge differences among Pakistan's military establishment and the civilian government. Those differences still exist among the two institutions.Presence of OBL in Pakistan also raised Anti-Pakistan sentiment among Americans, and the distrust among two countries was now at its peak.
                      This relationship got worse when in September, Admiral Mike Mullen, blamed Pakistan's ISI, for supporting Haqqani network in Afghanistan against American forces. Things got a bit better when Hilary Clinton along with military leadership of U.S. came to Pakistan. But this betterment in the relationship was only temporary. The last major incident that completely changed the relationship  between Pakistan and the U.S. was  NATO forces attack on Pakistan's two border checkpostst. In this unfortunate incident 24 Pakistan's military men were martyred. Finally, Pakistan took some major steps to show Americans that it will no longer tolerate any such action by U.S. forces. Pakistan cut NATO supplies to Afghanistan which is essential for Americans to continue war in Afghanistan. Not only this , Americans were forced to vacate Shamsi airbase and Pakistan also refused to attend  Bonn conference on Afghanistan.
                        Many analysts believe that if Pakistan had taken such serious steps right after the Raymond Davis incident, the checkpost attack might have been avoided. Now Pakistan has finally decided that it wants new terms of engagement with the U.S. Sherry Rehman, the new Pakistan'a ambassador in the U.S. will be negotiating these new terms with the U.S. adminstration.
                      The relations between Pakistan and the U.S. will not be perfect in 2012. However, both countries on the basis of their interests would not want to completely suspend this relationship. I also made  news reports on the same topic. Here afe the link.