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Linking Kashmir to trade

The Nation, Pakistan

Linking Kashmir to trade

15 June 2011

The European Parliament has passed a resolution linking a Free Trade Agreement with India to an improvement in its human rights records, and to greater democracy. That is a resounding slap for India not just because this flies in the face of its own self-image, but because it puts off even further the FTA it is pursuing. This FTA is not to be compared with the trade concessions granted to Pakistani goods by the EU as a humanitarian gesture, to help it out with the monsoon floods last year, and which were a sort of compensation for Pakistan being a frontline state in the War on Terror. It was also something to which India objected strongly enough to file an appeal in the World Trade Organization, where it also took a number of other countries. At the same time, instead of relying on the European Parliament, Pakistan should also pay attention to the statement of Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Geelani, who said that Pakistani diplomats did not argue the case of the Kashmiri people forcefully enough. Mr Geelani’s comments are particularly apposite in the light of the impending visit by the Indian Foreign Secretary to Islamabad. Mr Geelani noted two things: first, that there had been about 150 rounds of talks without coming closer to a solution. Second, that Pakistan should not come to an agreement with India without solving the Kashmir issue.

This indicates an unwanted problem with the Pakistani position. Pakistan’s diplomatic support is essential to the success of the Kashmiri people’s struggle for self-determination, and if Mr Geelani feels that this is not forthcoming, then this might well mean that Indian moves are having an effect. The problem lies in Pakistan’s over-reliance on the USA even though it has had demonstrated to it the latter’s preference for the former, which it wants to prop up as its regional counterweight to China. Because of this, it wants to back India in all its local disputes, including that of Kashmir. It is using its position in Islamabad to ensure that it keeps on talking to India, and it is to please the USA that it is soft-pedaling the Kashmir issue.