It may shock the reader to note that only after the reprehensible Pulwama terrorist attack in 2019, India decided to revoke Pakistan’s ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status by invoking Article 21 of the WTO.
Noticed a heightened social media activity commemorating 73rd anniversary of the tribal invasion of Pakistan on India in Kashmir on 22 October? This was what is known as the ‘Kabaili raid’ that drove my grandparents out of their homes in Kashmir; one of the seven exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits took place in October 1947 that came in the backdrop of Partition of India and Pakistan.
The attack in 1947 was a declaration of the relationship of hostility between Pakistan and India with the future of Jammu & Kashmir still uncertain, then a princely state under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. Though of course, as we know the Instrument of Accession was signed on 26 October 1947 by the Maharaja making J&K officially a part of India.
Since 14 August 1947, the day Pakistan was created and what may easily be acknowledged as a ‘black day’ in the history of Indian Nation, there have been a series of conflicts and hostility from Pakistan on India. Infiltration, cross border terrorism, aggression and nuisance making are terms that define Pakistan for India. Ask anyone on the street, what is the biggest threat to India? The answer, unequivocally will be: Pakistan!
I wondered if there was an official legislative clause that recognised Pakistan as an enemy; what with India having fought three major wars since the creation of the Islamic state and an additional fourth mini war in 1999:
The first from October 1947 to December 1948; ceasefire declared on 1st January, 1949 because of a ceasefire resolution of UN Security Council establishing a ‘ceasefire line’ that divided Kashmir into areas controlled by India and Pakistan, respectively.
The second was fought from April 8 to September 23, 1965, and was terminated by the ‘Tashkent Declaration’, with Soviet intervention.
The third war between India and Pakistan was fought from 3rd December to 16th December 1971 between East and West Pakistan, with India between the two. The war ended with East Pakistan’s freedom from West Pakistan, better known as the Bangladesh Independence War. East Pakistan, now Bangladesh received active support from India that became its advantage in winning this war.
Though the conflict between India and Pakistan continued, a mini Indo Pakistani war, known to us as the ‘Kargil War’ broke out in 1999. A bloody war that was fought on the Line of Control and ended with India successfully pushing Pakistan to the other side of the LoC, though this bloody war led to the loss of over 500 Indian soldiers, many young, newly recruited officers that were martyred during the war.
With a history of hostility and aggression, terror export into India, Pakistan clearly should have no trade, economic or diplomatic relations with India?
It may shock the reader a bit to note that only after the Pulwama terrorist attacks, as recently as last year, that India revoked Pakistan’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status by invoking Article 21 of the WTO that deals with security exceptions, the Domestic Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act that allows it to impose any import restriction. India had granted the MFN status providing non discriminatory access to its domestic market to Pakistan in 1996 as under the WTO norms, member countries are mandated to give this status to each other on a reciprocal basis. As per reports, India’s average bound rate for agricultural products was 113.5% and that for non-farm goods was 34.6%. The MFN-applied rates were 32.8% and 10.7%, respectively. These were withdrawn last year along with port restrictions, non tarrif measures, ban on goods and higher duty on imports.
As per official figures, in the April-November period, India’s imports from Pakistan amounted to $381 million compared with $489 million in the Financial Year 2018, with the major items of import being fruit and nuts, gypsum, sulphur, mineral oils and cement. India’s exports to Pakistan in the first eight months of the fiscal stood at $1.4 billion compared with $1.9 billion in FY18. Cotton, organic chemicals, parts of nuclear reactors, plastics, tanning and dyeing extracts are the main exports. Of the $2.6-billion bilateral trade, which is tilted toward India, almost $1 billion takes place through the Attari-Wagah border.
Pakistan, however, never accorded the MFN status to India so one really wonders why it took several years for India to extend the reciprocity?
What I chanced upon baffled me further:
In the 17th Lok Sabha session, on 19 November 2016 (three years prior to the withdrawal of MFN status), an Independent Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar introduced a Private Members’ Bill to declare Pakistan as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. The Bill, “Introduction of the Designation of Islamic Republic of Pakistan as State Sponsor of Terrorism Bill, 2016”. In a media statement the Rajya Sabha MP said, “I had promised that I will do this after the September 18 Uri attack. The reason behind the bill is to put the spotlight on the need for India to take a strong view on Pakistan as a terror state. The main objective is to urge the government to take appropriate action to brand Pakistan a terrorist nation.” The bill besides officially seeking to declare Pakistan as a hostile, enemy state, also provided for imposing legal, economic and travel sanctions on citizens of the neighbouring country.
Just four months later, on 10th March 2017, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, withdrew his Private Members’ Bill seeking to declare Pakistan as an enemy state and state sponsor of terrorism. “Since 1994, when Parliament passed a resolution against Pakistan, it has never passed any resolution. I think Parliament should reflect popular public view which is Pakistan must be made to account for its actions,” he had said earlier while tabling the Private Members’ Bill. One wonders what led him to withdraw the Bill? Curiously, the Bill didn’t receive an enthusiastic response on the floor of Parliament either.
Odd coincidence that since 2018, following the withdrawal of the Bill, the Rajya Sabha MP became a member of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), representing the state of Karnataka for the party.
The state of India has the responsibility of protecting and upholding the interests of the Nation of India. There is a higher expectation of the current government and leadership in dealing with the rogue enemies, both Pakistan and China. Though as the Nation looks to the State helplessly, a comedy of errors and sequential systemic failures mock the very mandate that the Nation accorded to the State. A sort of Indian State vs Indian Nation situation here, no less!
The author is an Indian-British living in London.