Business and Trade Haven't Been Hit Yet By Strained India-Pakistan Ties

Recovery in Mumbai, Karachi bourses on Friday indicates the worst may be behind in terms of international business and trade relations.

India still has to decide whether it will revoke Pakistan's MFN status. Credit: Reuters

India still has to decide whether it will revoke Pakistan’s MFN status. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: The violence in Kashmir, which India believes is the handiwork of Pakistan-supported elements, the attack at Uri and India’s retaliatory surgical strikes may have created a war hysteria and posed grievous threat to bilateral relations between the two neighbours, but on the ground there are no signs yet of any trade-related hurdles coming up.

In fact, while India has openly declared that it would be reviewing it most favoured nation status granted to Pakistan in order to mount multi-pronged pressure on the country, the fact is that so far India has not stopped the Pakistani delegation from participating in the upcoming India International Trade Fair. This, many who engage in cross-border trade community feel, is indication enough that that the current crisis will soon subside.

While the jury is still out on whether the surgical strike and the military standoff  may lead to an escalation, the business community is still hopeful that the situation would not get any worse.

At the India Trade Promotion Organisation, which organizes the IITF at Pragati Maidan, preparations are still underway to receive the over 100-odd businessmen from the neighbouring country who have already applied for space for the trade fair due to start in November.

“We normally receive about a 100 Pakistan business participants each year and this year the situation is no different. They have applied through the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and as of now are still expected to arrive in early November. Usually the businesspeople come in around four or five days before the trade fair begins in order to set up their stalls,” said general manager J. Gunasekharan.

The ITPO has so far not received any cancellations requests from the participants. But, the official said, the final decision on their arrival vests with the Ministry of External Affairs which would be issuing the visas. “We are just doing our part of the work of making arrangements for the event. The applications are only received through the FPCCI and that process is over.”

Gunasekharan both small scale and large scale wholesale enterprises from Pakistan have made booking for this year’s trade fair.

Talking to The Wire, FPCCI president Abdul Rauf Alam said his organisation has not yet changed its mind on the participation. “We will consider the entire scenario and issue a statement accordingly.”  The business community believes there is much as stake should trade relations deteriorate as the bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is to the order of nearly $2 billion with 80% of it being in India’s favour.

While the attack in Uri and the retaliatory strikes have rattled the business community, the manner in which the stock exchanges rallied in both Mumbai and Karachi on Friday after Thursday’s sell-off indicated that the situation may be on the mend.

Incidentally, businesses on both sides of the border realize that there is an enormous opportunity which lies ahead if the relations between the two nations normalise once again. For if after the Lahore bus visit, there was Kargil it was also followed by Musharraf’s visit to India.

And if after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing in ceremony, which was attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, there was the cold summer of 2015 which was broken by Modi’s impromptu visit to Lahore in December 2015 in which Nawaz received him at the airport and then the two drove to the palatial residence of the latter on the outskirts of the city, there was no reason why now the two countries could not once again warm up to each other.

On the Indian side, Ajai Sahai of exporters’ body FIEO appeared a tad bit apprehensive about the future when he said India’s review of the MFN status to Pakistan had raised some uncertainty about the normalisation of trade between the two countries.

However, some people are more positive about the future. As Dawood Usman Jakhura, director of FPCCI Pakistan- Malaysia Business Council said: “We are neighbours and we should resolve the situation with negotiations. War is never a solution. There may be many difference of opinion, but I think business and art should be kept separate and civil society and establishment must not target these.”