Lahore: Underlining that enhanced trade will create “increased space”, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar today called on India to show “flexibility” and meet Pakistan “half way” in normalising relations and resolving “core issues” like the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.
The two countries must not forget history but they should be able to learn lessons from past hostilities and look towards a future of greater cooperation in areas like trade, Khar said while addressing a conference of Indian and Pakistani businessmen.
Bilateral trade will create “increased space” to look for solutions to the “core issue of Jammu and Kashmir and all other important issues”, she said.
Greater trade would help India and Pakistan to reach a position where they “can talk to each other comfortably” and have confidence in each other that would make problem-solving “an inevitability”, Khar said.
“We welcome India to meet us half-way,” Khar said in a speech that dwelt on the reasons why the approach adopted by the two countries over the past six decades had not worked.
The current Pakistan government, she said, had shown “vision and foresight to venture into what was believed to be a no-go area for 45 years” by boosting trade with India.
“We look forward to seeing the same flexibility, the same venturing into the no-go area from India,” Khar remarked.
“In Pakistan today, there is across-the-board consensus that war is not an option between two nuclear powers. The only option on the table is to resolve our differences and disputes on the negotiating table,” Khar said.
“Wars, propaganda and international lobbying have not gotten us to what we believe to be the promised land. They will not get us to the promised land. Our vision of the promised land has to change,” Khar said.
“We cannot expect good things for Pakistan and ill for India. Indians cannot expect good things for India and ill for Pakistan…It is illogical and it is without historic precedent and it is at the root of our common history of a lack of peace and tranquillity and sustained pervasiveness of poverty and deprivation in both countries,” she added.
Khar referred to the avalanche that hit a high-altitude Pakistan Army camp in the Siachen sector and buried 139 people under snow last month and said the two countries had “23 years of lost opportunities” to resolve the standoff on the Himalayan glacier.
The recent tragedy in the Siachen sector was a “stark and painful reminder of the explicit human cost of status quo”, she said.
In this regard, she referred to a joint statement issued after a meeting of the premiers of India and Pakistan in 1989 that had talked about a comprehensive settlement of the Siachen issue based on the redeployment of troops.
The two sides, she said, have to seize opportunities and pro-actively pursue them to settle issues like Saichen.
“We believe that increased trade between India and Pakistan can help solve the puzzle,” Khar said.
“Trade alone may not unlock the solution to the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir (or) unlock the solution to Sir Creek or Siachen. Indeed we need to make progress on these issues to keep the momentum we have today going but trade never really stands alone,” Khar added.
At the same time, increased trade will require greater movement of goods and people across the border, adjustment of visa regimes, investments in physical connectivity and cooperation on issues related to the security of trade, she said.
Calling for the creation of a “peace dividend”, Khar said, “We have fought wars and we have created an eco-system of hostility toward each other. This deeply unsatisfactory situation is what we may call the war dividend. We must reject this not for sentimental or ideological reasons but for pragmatic ones. This isn’t working.”
Though Pakistan is committed to increased trade and normalised relations, it cannot achieve the goals on its own, Khar said.
“We welcome India to demonstrate the same courage that our leadership has demonstrated, we welcome India to change some not perceived but real discriminatory investment regulations that target Pakistani investors and traders and we welcome India to seize opportunities that we create together, separately, by design and sometimes by tragic accident,” she added.