Pakistan should not have “hostile” relations with India, the country’s new National Security Plan has suggested in its vision document, asking policymakers to decouple trade and business ties with New Delhi from the final settlement of the Kashmir issue
Pakistan should not have “hostile” relations with India, the country’s new National Security Plan has suggested in its vision document, asking policymakers to decouple trade and business ties with New Delhi from the final settlement of the Kashmir issue. India and Pakistan had severed trade and business ties in 2019 when the former abrogated the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“We are not seeking hostility with India for the next 100 years. The new policy seeks peace with immediate neighbors,” The Express Tribune quoted an official, who was aware of the details, as saying. The public version of the new plan, approved by the Pakistan Cabinet last week, will be released by Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday.
The official also said there would be a “possibility of normalizing trade and commercial ties with India as it had happened in the past,” if the two countries maintain limited progress on talks. This suggests a shift from the past approach where Islamabad decided to condition the resumption of business and trade ties with the solution of the Kashmir issue.
However, the official, quoted in the report, added that “there were no prospects of rapprochement with India under the Modi government.”
Earlier in March 2021, Pakistan had tried, though unsuccessfully, to resume limited business ties, by allowing the export of sugar. However, Prime Minister Khan was forced to roll back the initiative after he faced fierce resistance from his own Cabinet colleagues.
The desire to resume business relations, even with a limited scope, is growing among a section of the country’s key stakeholders, including the powerful military. Significantly, the Pakistan military has had a dominant role in drafting the new national security plan, which has suggested a similar line of action.
For the last few years, the country’s economy has been struggling, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and limited growth in exports. The cessation of aid and assistance from the United States, and growing external debt, further added to its misery.
These conditions forced the Khan government to adopt what it says is a shift from its earlier geostrategic to geoeconomic approach. Although the shift produced little results so far, it has managed to emerge as one of the central themes in the country’s new national security plan.
But geoeconomics, the official said, does not necessarily mean they would “overlook” the country’s geostrategic and geopolitical interests. The longstanding Kashmir dispute with India has been identified as a “vital national security interest” in the new policy.