The process of normalising trade and investment relations between India and Pakistan could again be in jeopardy after the killing of five Indian soldiers along the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir.
“Trade is surely going to be hit again. Who will take the plunge now? After January's incident (when Indian soldiers got killed), talks were slowly gaining momentum.
Even the (commerce) secretary-level talks look doubtful now,” a commerce department official told Business Standard.
The MFN (Most Favoured Nation, meaning non-discriminatory treatment for each other) issue is of prime importance to India, as it wants to have greater access in the Pakistani markets.
Pakistan missed the deadline for granting MFN trade status to India in December last year.
The matter got delayed with a change of government there.
In February 2011, the two governments decided to resume normal bilateral trade and investment relations. Both sides have also moved towards a more relaxed business visa regime.
“Bilateral trade has been progressing smoothly between India and Pakistan . . . Both sides have made considerable progress in improving trade ties,” D Purandeswari, minister of state for commerce and industry, had told the Lok Sabha on Monday, hours before Tuesday’s violence and aftermath.
Trade talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours took a back seat in January, when beheading of Indian soldiers near the LoC took place.
In February, an Indian soldier got killed during an exchange of fire.
Yet, business communities on both sides decided to break the ice.
Also, with the coming in of the new government there, it seemed trade talks would be back on track.
A meeting of the Indo-Pak Business Council, with private business from both sides, met in June at Islamabad.
“Normal trade and investment relations can be the only bridge over such a heated border,” Sunil K Munjal of Hero MotoCorp, who’d co-chaired the meet, had told Business Standard.
Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has kept the commerce ministry with himself; it was supposed to be an indication of its importance.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and he were expected to chart a road map on all contentious issues in September, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meet in New York.