India Insight

Can commerce be ultimate CBM for India and Pakistan?

The running theme of the 21st century is that of economic partnerships, from the European Union to ASEAN, with the aim of fostering and maintaining economic prosperity and social progress.

And arch rivals India and Pakistan might also discover the economic and political dividend of cooperation if they are sincere in liberalising bilateral trade.

As a Pakistani commerce minister visited India for the first time in 35 years, big words are flowing from both sides about agreements reached in easing trade restrictions and their sincerity in pushing up by several notches a fragile peace process that was shattered following the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Initiatives like the present trade agreements which include opening a new customs post and easing visa rules are termed confidence building measures (CBMs), whose larger purpose is to gradually normalise ties.

And officials say they are more sincere than ever in fostering cooperation.

“You would appreciate the difference in approach this time. Both sides are committed that they would make this dialogue process irreversible,” Pakistani Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim said.

Peddling reforms for street vendors?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken a step towards unshackling the poorest of entrepreneurs — the street vendors.

In a letter to chief ministers, this week, Singh called for a “new deal” for urban street vendors and implementation of the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 — which would enable vendors to ply their trade without harassment.

These include hawkers, sidewalk traders or even the people selling clothes or utensils at the weekly market.

India, China take a measure of each other at border row talks

China and India are sitting down for another round of talks this week on their unsettled border, a nearly 50-year festering row that in recent months seems to have gotten worse.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and India’s National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan are unlikely to announce any agreement on the 3,500 km border, even a small one, but their talks this week may well signal how they intend to move forward on a relationship marked by a  deep, deep “trust deficit”, as former Indian intelligence chief B. Raman puts it.

While the entire Himalayan border is disputed, including the Aksai Chin area, it is the row over large parts of India’s Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern stretch of the mountains that has strained ties in recent months.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the election manifestos

The world's largest democracy chooses a new government in an election beginning on Thursday, and given the fires burning next door in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the men and women who will rule New Delhi over the next five years will doubtless exert influence over the course of events.

Indeed, with the pain and anger over  the Mumbai attacks of November still raw, the mood could hardly be tougher against Pakistan. Even shorn of the campaign rhetoric, the positions of both the ruling Congress and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party on Pakistan begin from common ground. No dialogue with Islamabad until it "dismantles the infrastructure of terrorism", both parties say in their manifestos.

Full texts of the documents of the two main parties are here and here.

New Delhi's continued refusal to resume dialogue or indeed to expand other links such as trade has caught Pakistan between a rock and a hard place, according to this piece in 2point6billion.com, a website tracking developments mainly in China and India. While Islamabad has repeatedly called for resumption of dialogue since the attacks, Delhi has refused to comply until it is assured that Pakistan will prosecute all those involved in the planning and operations.

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