THE TRADERS OF KASHMIR

THE TRADERS OF KASHMIR

They are consummate traders who deal in a host of merchandise with the tenacity and commitment that perhaps has no other parallel in the world. But they are also traders of a different type- they deal in all forms of merchandise, the actual as well as the abstract.  And while they are the best of friends while trading one set of commodities, they becoming bitter enemies while trading another. Yet the beauty of this commercial arrangement is that despite this ‘love and hate’ relationship, both continue trading and it is this which make them truly unique partners!

These strange trading partners go by the name of India and Pakistan and both follow a common philosophy that, ‘come what may, trade we must- so trade we will’! On the commercial front, goods are being traded on a war footing with each side bestowing the status of ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) on the other. On the Line of Control (LoC), the armies of both countries remain equally busy in the trade of exchanging fire while on the diplomatic front too the two nations work overtime and keep busy trading something entirely different – accusations and charges at the UN!

Such an elaborate and comprehensive trade arrangement between the two countries holds immense promise of revolutionising commercial enterprises all over the world as it places trade above morality and ethics. And it is this unholy philosophy that opens the floodgates of possibilities for the unscrupulous. For example, America could follow the Indo Pak model by granting MFN status to Iran, importing oil from it and then using the same to fuel its fighter aircrafts and drones, bomb Tehran. Iran too could use the millions of dollars it receives for the oil sold to America to hire terrorist groups or mercenaries to bomb the US. Wouldn’t this be a ‘win win’ proposal for both sides?

Returning to the Indo Pak trading matrix one finds that even in their hostile diplomatic exchange of trading charges, there is an inbuilt safety mechanism to ensure that parity exists. While India stakes claim to the entire territory of the erstwhile kingdom of J&K, it takes due care not to express any solidarity with the people of this region, which by virtue of New Delhi’s claim are Indian citizens. And Islamabad’s stance too is curious – while it considers Indian presence in J&K ‘illegal’, pledges whole hearted ‘political, diplomatic and moral support’ to its people and calls for the implementation of the UN resolutions, by failing to move any resolution on the same, it falls woefully short of its stated position on Kashmir!

We have been given to understand that India and Pakistan are moving forward on the issue of resolving the Kashmir issue. In March this year, while addressing the joint Parliament session on the first day of the budget session, President Pratibha Patil had declared that "We are committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan through dialogue.” As per Pak media reports, President Zardari too has told Mirwaiz Umar Farooq that Pakistan believes that result-oriented, uninterrupted dialogue process with India will greatly help create a conducive environment to find permanent solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.”

But all this was before the two countries decided to trade vitriolic exchanges on Kashmir at the UN. However, those who are apprehensive that this spat may derail the ongoing bonhomie between the two countries, need not despair. The Indian Home Minister, currently on a visit to J&K has made two important observations- the first, that militants continue to cross the fencing put up by India and secondly, that the Government of India is determined to promote cross LoC trade. These statements have once again reinforced the invincibility of the ‘blow hot –blow cold’ Indo Pak relations.

So, the stark reality is that commerce is now become the ‘core issue’ between India and Pakistan and thus, despite their conflicting views on the Kashmir issue, it is and will remain, ‘business as usual’ between the two. It is quite evident as to why New Delhi is behaving the way it is. But what does defy explanation is Pakistan’s ‘flip-flop’ on the Kashmir issue.   Pakistan wants us to know that it has not forsaken the Kashmir issue but it has also conveyed that its resolution can wait till a ‘conducive environment’ emerges. Does Islamabad lack the will, or is it merely taking the people of J&K for granted?