Pakistan takes a step back at SAARC
At the SAARC summit Pakistan talked about the Kashmir dispute rather than trade, which the summit is actually all about. The Indian media has been full of it. I thought I would check what the Pak media is saying. To my surprise, most of the Pak media was silent on this aspect except for one major daily which had in fact spoken out even before the summit.
This piece in the dailytimes appeared before the summit.
Is he (Shaukat Aziz, the Pak PM) putting the disputes first? Rhetoric aside, we hope not, because he did express optimism about the peace process in progress between India and Pakistan, saying that talks between India and Pakistan were moving ahead at various levels through the formal composite dialogue and through back channels. So we should take this statement to mean that he is not actually making a solution to the Kashmir dispute a ‘precondition’ for progress on the SAARC front. Imposing conditions will not do in the case of SAARC, and if the regional arrangement is to be inspired by the example of the European Union, imposing conditions would actually be counter-productive…
That was before the summit. Yesterday there was another editorial in the same newspaper and it slammed Pakistan’s attitude:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared to trump Pakistan by isolating it with his statement that, by the end of 2007, India will have concluded free trade agreements with all countries of the SAARC except Pakistan, which was unwilling to reciprocate even India’s gesture of granting Pakistan the Most Favoured Nation status. Then he cracked the whip: India will give “zero duty” concession to all its trade partners except Pakistan….Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is known for his smoothness said things quite out of character for a banker. He said outstanding political issues should be sorted out first before free trade materialised between the two countries — a brief given by the establishment..Pakistan sat there and watched, its outlook marred once again by an obsession with Kashmir although there was no need to be so costive about it. Pakistan can show its internal political audit that it was giving nothing away on Kashmir while going ahead with the free trade negotiations.
No mention of such criticism in articles which discussed the summit, at least not in this Pakistan Times story or the Pak Tribune one. In fact these stories say all the right things like “…member states pledged to boost economic cooperation and work for better life, equitable distribution of benefits and opportunities among the people of South Asia” or “the member countries will bolster cooperation among them for the socio economic development of the region besides improving the quality of the life of their people.”
Empty words. But the Indian media has been screaming headlines like “Manmohan talks of opening up market, Aziz harps on Kashmir.” Apparently, the Pak PM told editors on the sidelines of the summit that “there would be no trade with India and no implementation of Safta by Pakistan until Kashmir was resolved, no transit, nothing.”
Hats off to the Daily Times of Pakistan. The newspaper has Pakistan’s national interest in mind. As for the others, have they been gagged? Surely they can’t believe that Pakistan should not trade with India until the Kashmir issue is resolved?
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