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'Modi's rise to power will not affect Indo-Pak trade ties'

November 18, 2013 09:28 IST

'Modi's rise to power will not affect Indo-Pak trade ties'

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Nayanima Basu in New Delhi

Narendra Modi’s coming to power will not make any difference to Pakistan’s trade ties with India, says Zubair Ahmed Malik president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry.

In an interview on the sidelines of a Ficci seminar, Malik, one of Pakistan’s top businessmen, tells Business Standard both Modi and (Rahul) Gandhi -- whoever comes to power -- will have to support the trade-normalisation process.

Edited excerpts:

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Image: Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters

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'Modi's rise to power will not affect Indo-Pak trade ties'

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It’s going to be two years since Pakistan missed the deadline to grant India the most-favoured nation status for trade. A World Bank report says this will be to your own benefit. . .

You are right.

I have always said this.

If we can have a free trade agreement with China, why are we scared of India?

We have to give India the MFN status.

If India gets access to 200 million people, we get access to a market of a billion plus. Industry has to compete and we, with India, can form a very important part of the value chain.

Unfortunately, because of elections in Pakistan and now elections coming up in India, the trade-normalisation process has slowed.

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Image: Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters

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'Modi's rise to power will not affect Indo-Pak trade ties'

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That means MFN now depends on India’s general elections in 2014. What if Narendra Modi comes to power? Do you foresee a problem because he does not appear very friendly with Pakistan?

Absolutely not.

Why should we have problems if (Narendra) Modi comes to power?

We have to respect the mandate of the people of India.

We have to continue doing business here -- irrespective of whosoever comes to the helm of affairs.

We do not have to deal with personalities; the process has to be institutionalised.

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Photographs: Reuters

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'Modi's rise to power will not affect Indo-Pak trade ties'

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But there are fears Modi might stall the process.

Will he be the only one taking decisions?

No, I do not think so.

All the bureaucracy and political parties will be there.

Also, when you are on a chair, there are different demands of the chair, so the attitudes also differ.

I am not worried about whether Mr Modi comes to power or Mr (Rahul) Gandhi.

The dealing has to be between the two countries, its people and its businessmen.

Do you think Modi’s foreign policy, if he comes to power, will be favourable for Pakistan? In his speeches, he has often blamed Pakistan for cease-fire violations at the Line of Control.

Modi will not even talk about this when, and if, he comes to power.

That’s because they would have achieved by then what they wanted to achieve.

They will not utter a word about it.

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Image: Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters

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'Modi's rise to power will not affect Indo-Pak trade ties'

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One major skirmish on the LoC and the entire trade dialogue gets affected on both sides.

Why do these happen at the LoC, and why at the time of elections?

There was not a single incident in the past five years.

But, when elections are to take place in Pakistan and India, these incidents start happening.

That’s because our political leaders play on these incidents to get popularity vote.

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Image: Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters

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'Modi's rise to power will not affect Indo-Pak trade ties'

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Do you not think Pakistan has missed the opportunity on trade with India, which has liberalised the trading regime unilaterally with Bangladesh?

We are not in competition with Bangladesh. Irrespective of what Bangladesh is getting, or not getting, we have to find our own place here in terms of quality and competitiveness of products.

What about your agriculture and pharmaceutical lobbies, which are stalling trade normalisation?

There will be some hurdles in the way.

They can delay or halt the process for some time, but they cannot stop these countries from doing business with each other.

Both countries are capable of handling these hurdles.

The people who are creating hindrances within the private sector must know that the protection they enjoy is not going to stay forever; they must learn to survive competition.

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Image: Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi (L) and Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Group, embrace as Ratan Tata, chairman Emeritus of Tata group, looks on during the inauguration ceremony of the Vibrant Gujarat global investor summit at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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'Modi's rise to power will not affect Indo-Pak trade ties'

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Why is (Pakistan) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif still holding the commerce minister’s portfolio? Getting a formal commerce minister might accelerate the dialogue?

I believe there should be a commerce minister; we do have a minister of state.

They might have been waiting for by-elections to take place.

It is important. I will take it up with the PM.

 


Image: A supporter of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds a poster featuring Narendra Modi during a jubilation ceremony outside the party office in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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