Most Favoured Notion

Temper your excitement over Pakistan granting MFN status to India

Forget the big announcement by Pakistan’s Information Minister (and reactions in the international media), the official statement of the government of Pakistan says something which err… isn’t exactly the same as grant of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India. Dawn newspaper quotes the official press note on the subject in its story:

“The cabinet fully endorsed the efforts of the ministry for complete normalisation of trade relations and directed to implement in letter and spirit the decisions taken in this regard,” the statement read. It further said that the cabinet gave the ministry “the mandate to take the process of normalisation forward, which would culminate in the observance of MFN principle in its true spirit”.[Dawn]

Something that would some day in the future perhaps “culminate in the observance of MFN principle in its true spirit”!

But that is not all. Press Trust of India’s Pakistan correspondent Rezaul Hasan Laskar tweeted (here, here and here) that even that official press note was missing from Pakistan government websites today morning. And when Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was pressed about the issue in the evening, its spokesperson chose to read out  from the ‘missing’ press note in response.

Going by the way things work in that part of the world, it is possible that the MFN status may suddenly be again bestowed upon India. It would be a welcome gesture from Pakistan, but even by the standards of gestures between India and Pakistan, bigger gestures have failed to make an impact. There has been no bigger unilateral gesture for peace than the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s bus ride to Lahore which got the Kargil incursions as Pakistan’s response.

If it were to happen, this would not be the first time Pakistan would have granted the MFN status to India. As per G Parthasarthy, Pakistan had granted the MFN status to India in 1976 and withdrawn it three years later. Moreover, India had granted the MFN status to Pakistan in 1995 (at the peak of Pakistan’s proxy-war in Jammu and Kashmir) and it has taken 16 years for Pakistan to make an attempt to reciprocate it. That too when that declaration is a commitment Pakistan is bound to follow under its WTO obligations. As and when the announcement is made, it will have to be examined in detail to understand the meat in that announcement. For as we know from previous experience, it could be a hollow gesture with little substance.

In one way, it is an example of our rather low expectations from Pakistan that even a whiff of an announcement of a much-delayed gesture gets many Indians so excited that they are wiling to forget that all perpetrators of terror against India and Indians continue to be supported by the Pakistani state. This gesture of announcing the MFN status for India — and it has yet not happened — does nothing to alter the strategic calculus of Pakistani establishment about India. It is a desperate emergency measure to overcome their economic crisis. Trade with India will generate more revenues for a cash-strapped Pakistani state. Unless the nature of Pakistani state is altered, we all know where the major share of money from the Pakistani state coffers will go — to the Pakistani military-jehadi complex. And India is the most favoured nation of Pakistan’s military-jehadi complex. Most. Favoured. Nation.

To understand why bilateral trade will not resolve problems between India and Pakistan, read this blogpost on the subject. And a more recent one which updates that argument.

*Title of the post courtesy this tweet by @joydas

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