Fu­tile Ef­forts

Southasia - - Editor's Mail -

I thor­oughly en­joyed read­ing your cover story on trade within the SAARC re­gion. Though it was en­light­en­ing to get a bal­anced view­point put forth by dif­fer­ent ar­gu­ments, trade in SAARC will al­ways re­main at a dis­mal level. Un­for­tu­nately, the two big play­ers, In­dia and Pak­istan, who es­sen­tially hold the fu­ture of the en­tire re­gion in their hands, will never look be­yond their po­lit­i­cal hos­til­i­ties and it is un­likely that the two will be able to con­duct free trade be­fore re­solv­ing out­stand­ing is­sues, such as Kash­mir or do­mes­tic mar­ket en­croach­ment. Pak­istan grant­ing In­dia a sym­bolic MFN sta­tus means lit­tle, even though the mat­ter has been deemed as a break­through in re­la­tions. The process re­mains in­com­plete and it is un­cer­tain whether the sta­tus will be ac­corded by Oc­to­ber 2012. It will be crit­i­cal to see if Pak­istan moves be­yond an ‘all talk, no ac­tion’ stance and con­ducts trade with In­dia. On the other hand, even though In­dia had granted the MFN sta­tus to Pak­istan in 1996, Pak­istan ex­ports lie at a mere $287 mil­lion com­pared with the $1.5 bil­lion In­dian ex­ports to Pak­istan. While it may be a step in the right di­rec­tion for South Asia, it may be too early to cel­e­brate just yet.

Ahmed Ka­pa­dia Karachi, Pak­istan

(2) IN­TER-SAARC trade has never been more cru­cial. With the global econ­omy in sham­bles, re­gional trade should take prece­dence. In­dia, one of the world’s great­est emerg­ing mar­kets, can lead the trend. In­dia al­ready has free trad­ing agree­ments with var­i­ous South Asian coun­tries, in­clud­ing Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal. Since all coun­tries lie in sim­i­lar cli­mates and spe­cial­ize in agri­cul­tural and pri­mary goods, much can be gained by re­gional trade. It is im­per­a­tive to set aside po­lit­i­cal ri­val­ries for the sake of pros­per­ity. While some view this as unattain­able, it must be re­mem­bered that the same model was adopted for the EU, which to­day is a con­glom­er­ate of coun­tries en­gaged in eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, de­spite hav­ing fought a num­ber of wars and still vic­tim to un­re­solved is­sues. Look­ing at the re­gion as a whole, due to cli­mate con­di­tions, la­bor ex­per­tise and cap­i­tal, each of the coun­tries has a com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage in the pro­duc­tion of pri­mary and sec­ondary goods. If an in­ter-saarc trade agree­ment were drawn up keep­ing in mind a rel­e­vant spe­cial­iza­tion area, the re­gion would im­mensely ben­e­fit, re­duce pro­duc­tion costs and be­come the hub of com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity. The po­ten­tial in South Asia is un­prece­dented. It just re­mains to be tapped. Aveenath Kumar Delhi, In­dia

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