Peace, trade and open borders | Editorial

The BOAO Conference is over. Instead of matching sanctions with sanctions President Xi has taken a flexible stand that best serves the international economic order. Xi’s conciliatory approach combined with four major proposals is likely to bring down the trade tensions unleashed after Trump’s protectionist moves.
Speaking at the conference Prime Minister Abbasi linked regional peace with increased trade and open borders. Trade and development, he said, are a key to the promotion of tolerance and denying space to extremism. China has in the past suggested to Pakistan to keep its differences with India on the back burner for the time being and enter into trade relations with it. A section of Pakistani businessmen has all along supported improved economic relations between the neighbouring countries. However, whenever the two countries are on the verge of giving a positive dimension to their ties something unexpected invariably takes place to bring the relations back to square one. Terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Pathankot and Uri are some of these incidents.
Politicians in Pakistan have tried to improve relations with India so that an enabling environment is created to take up and resolve more complicated issues. The unelected strategists however remain adamant on a maximalist approach. The mindset has already isolated Pakistan from the US and its European allies. Two incidents underline the growing trust deficit with China caused by the approach. These are the 2017 Brics summit resolution and withdrawal of support for Pakistan at FATF meeting by both China and Saudi Arabia.
The Indian attitude has meanwhile hardened. Modi and Abbasi were both at Davos early this year but they failed to meet. Modi who has become a prisoner of his own rhetoric has adopted an unrealistic “no talks” policy with Pakistan. Since the ceasefire was put in place in November 2003, the year 2017 witnessed the highest number of violations. India needs to realise that war is no option and the only way out is dialogue with Pakistan leading to improvement in ties and resolution of all outstanding disputes including Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile there should be no place for “good” or mainstreamed Taliban in Pakistan.
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