THE Pulwama incident brought Pakistan and India — both nuclear powers — to the brink of war and the standoff alarmed the world. Much out-of-the-spotlight and behind-the-curtains diplomatic activity took place in many world capitals and between New Delhi and Islamabad to diffuse tensions and set things right.
Things worsen where Pakistan-India differences come to a boil every now and then. I feel that in this atmosphere of animosity, trade can be an instrument of peace. Trade fosters trust, trust creates interdependence; and interdependence leads to peace.
A World Bank report issued in September 2018 states that the bilateral trade potential between India and Pakistan is $37 billion. The current trade volume, however, is a little over $2 billion. Tariffs in South Asia are twice the world average and it is one of the least integrated regions in the world.
The true potential of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor can only be harnessed by making India a part of this mega initiative. There must be an east-west corridor similar to CPEC, which is a north-south corridor.
This initiative will give India access to resource-rich Central Asia and Europe. In return the landlocked Central Asian states can access the big South Asian market through this corridor. The Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India (TAPI) and Iran Pakistan India (IPI) gas pipelines can be useful projects in promoting peace and stability in the region.
South Asia cannot afford more wars. Peace is the only option and trade can be an effective strategic rationale for both countries. Only a genuine interdependence can ensure sustainable peace in the region.
Muhammad Aun Raza Khan
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019