ISLAMABAD: While the country’s exports are falling, trade officers at Pakistani missions run a risk of becoming occupied with peddling a political agenda instead of focusing on trade promotion.
According to an insider, the Ministry of Commerce has issued letters to trade officers in more than 50 countries to sensitise the host business communities about human rights violations in the Indian-held Kashmir.
The ministry has issued the letters on the instruction of the cabinet division. The new guidelines instruct that multinational corporations working in India should also be sensitised about the non-democratic and oppressive policies of the Indian government.
The source said Pakistan has already taken a similar stand in the case of apartheid (South Africa) and occupied territories (eg Palestine). The West has promoted issues such as ‘blood diamond’ and ‘conflict cotton’ to highlight and restrict the sale of products from war-torn regions.
A trade officer said there was a need to use the appropriate optics when promoting issues internationally. The atrocities being committed in Indian-held Kashmir needed to be exhibited in a similar vein so that they were easily contextualised and absorbed by the business community.
The trade officers have also been asked to report the progress in this regard to the commerce ministry.
A trade officer insisted that it was the responsibility of the foreign office to handle political issues abroad, including Kashmir.
The Ministry of Commerce administers 51 trade offices in 36 countries abroad with an annual budgetary outlay of Rs2bn.
These offices are important outposts of the commerce ministry and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan for promoting and facilitating expansion of Pakistan’s visible and invisible trade particularly exports, increasing investment in Pakistan, negotiating favourable market access conditions for Pakistani products and services in the host country and improve the country’s image, especially in business realm.
Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2016