Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
from Afghan Journal:
The United States is pressing Pakistan to allow Afghan agriculture products to pass through its territory to India, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a trip to the war-torn country this week. Opening India's huge and exploding market to Afghan farmers sounds like a perfectly logical thing to do. Their produce of dried fruits, nuts and pomegranates long made its way to India before the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, immortalised in Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's classic story for children, Kabuliwallah.
Reviving that trade from landlocked Afghanistan may well turn farmers decisively away from poppy cultivation, the United States hopes. It would also make agriculture, on which an estimated 80 percent of the population depends, more worthwhile and make them less vulnerable to the Taliban.
But this exactly the sort of thing that stirs anxiety in Pakistan. India's growing presence in Afghanistan since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001 has, after Kashmir, become the single biggest sore point in Pakistan. Islamabad fears that New Delhi's vast Afghan aid programme, close ties with President Hamid Karzai's government and its expanded diplomatic presence is part of a policy of strategic encirclement. It is, in some ways, the coming together of its worst fears.
Defence analysts in South Asia have been saying for so long that India and Pakistan might solve their problems over Kashmir only to end up at war over water that I had almost become inured to the issue. That was until I read the following comment on an earlier blog about Gulf investors buying up farmland in Pakistan to offset food shortages at home:
“Tough challenges await the investors in this sector due to serious water and energy shortages that the country suffers from at the moment,” it reads. “For effective investment in the agriculture sector, the government must clear these impediments first.”