LAHORE: President Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF), Sahibzada Usman Zulfiqar Sunday urged the government not to talk with India on restoration of bilateral trade unless the latter lifts curfew and restores the special status of Indian Held Kashmir (IOK), as India is major beneficiary of this almost “one-way trade.”
Talking to media persons, the PBF president said that for 70 years bilateral trade had been largely favoured to India which is even against the wisdom of SAFTA agreement. Indian exports continued unabated at a monthly average of $150 million while Pakistan’s decreased from $30 million to $4 million. Pakistan’s decision to suspend bilateral trade has pulled the plug on this one-way trade.
Neither Pakistan nor India is critically dependent on each other’s market, though the suspension of bilateral trade might, in the medium term, affect the consumer welfare by increasing prices of a few agricultural and other products, he explained.
As in absolute terms, India stands to lose a market of $2 billion compared with Pakistan’s loss of $0.38 billion. Pakistan’s exports of $383 million to India in 2018 constituted 1.6% of Pakistan’s global exports. Since Pakistan’s value-added products are systematically excluded through NTBs, Pakistan’s exports to India are concentrated in a few primary and intermediate products — dried dates ($92 million), cement ($63 million), sugar ($23 million), gypsum ($19 million), sesame seed ($15 million), leather ($14 million), steel scrap ($13 million), disodium carbonate ($12 million) and surgical instruments ($11 million), he maintained.
There is little dependence of Pakistan’s exports on the Indian market for these products except for dried dates, though the reliance has been reduced through an aggressive market diversification strategy since February 2019.
Though India’s level of trade restrictiveness under the Overall Trade Restrictiveness Index (47.6) is more than double the Pakistani restrictiveness (22.2), the concealed Pakistan-specific NTBs have been the most constricting. A hostile mindset (considered to be the most restrictive of the NTBs), limiting visa policies, long waiting periods at borders and, above all, the harassment of Indian importers doing business with Pakistan have greatly restricted trade.
He said to India’s misfortune, it has been taken over by extremist and racist Hindus. Only a person with an extremist mindset would do what they have done in Kashmir by keeping it under curfew for the last 10 months. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi is offering Kashmir’s domiciles to Indian business community, which will further aggravate the situation.
Zulfiqar said even in a recent report by the Indian Ministry of Commerce, acknowledged that Indian businessmen importing from Pakistan were subjected to surveillance by Indian intelligence agents and their import goods were subjected to multiple security screening. Unsurprisingly, every round of trade liberalisation during the last two decades led to only one-side gains.
He also called upon President SAARC CCI to take up the Pakistan’s and Kashmir stance in front of Indian business community loud and clear so that they know the real picture of New Delhi, who impressed with the ideology of RSS.
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