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News: Recently, there have been various developments between India and Pakistan relations which were encouraging.
What are some of the positive developments?
– Both countries handled India’s accidental firing of a missile into Pakistan’s territory with exceptional restraint.
– An Indian trader sent a consignment of sugar from India to Uzbekistan via Pakistan territory.
– Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan had praised India’s independent foreign policy.
What are the issues/challenges from both sides?
India’s geo-economic focus is now on the east and south. Hence, it has crafted the Act East and Neighbourhood First policies. It is now focusing and investing in global and Indo-Pacific partnerships.
There is stagnation of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It has prevented any progress on the plans for motor vehicles connectivity, a joint satellite, an integrated power grid, energy interdependence and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.
India has not made any investment in border infrastructure since India opened its first Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari.
After the Pulwama attack, Delhi withdrew the Most Favoured Nation status and raised the basic customs duty to 200 per cent.
There is only one formal crossing with Pakistan. There are over 60 border crossings with northern and eastern neighbour countries.
The civilian government of Pakistan has let the army handle India. In fact, the geoeconomic priority of Paksitan now lies towards the north and west, especially through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC).
Pakistan is being used as China’s proxy. It poses a regional challenge for India.
What will happen if India continues to isolate Pakistan?
Pakistan may continue to disconnect from South Asia. It may use asymmetric warfare to keep its border as hard and securitised.
What can be done by India even if Islamabad does not reciprocate?
In order to limit domestic opposition, the initiative taken by India should not involve Kashmir.
India can promote sectors and industries in the border regions of India. It will benefit both India and Pakistan. It will allow India to be an export market.
India should explore unilateral measures. Any-non-reciprocated initiative should be promoted diplomatically in order to place the ball in Pakistan’s court. This will put international pressure on Pakistan. Former-PM of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee advocated economic interdependence strategy to soften the India-Pakistan border relations
India can lower import duties on Pakistani goods. It would put the onus on Islamabad to revise its own decision to suspend trade. For example, Pakistan’s largest global export is in textile, and it is heavily dependent on cotton imports from India.
India to unilaterally improve cross-border infrastructure, it should massively finance the development of its last-mile road, rail and air network in the peripheral border areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab. It will spur domestic development. It will also attract attention from the Pakistani borderland economies.
India can set up New ICPs along the border at Hussainiwala, Munabao, Suchetgarh or Nadabet.
There is a potential to increase India-Pakistan trade from actual $2.4 billion in 2017-18 (now reduced to $400 million) to $37 billion (as per the World bank).
Even if Pakistan fail to immediately reciprocate, it will still help India reap the benefits of trade and mobility.
Source: The post is based on an article “India can act today to shape tomorrow’s terms of connectivity with Pakistan” published in the Indian Express on 31st Mar 22.