Afraid of free trade

Diplomacy in South Asia is given over to give-no-quarter bureaucrats, who cleave to a nationalism that continues to trump economics.

Both sides have to talk on the whole spectrum of issues and all problems to make the peace process more sustainable, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said. The SAFTA agreement that both countries signed contains Article 8, which refers to the “removal of intra-SAARC barriers to investment.
Written by Khaled Ahmed | Updated: April 25, 2014 12:38 am

realise that South Asia doesn’t trade at all within itself compared, let’s say, to the states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? Free trade destroys many orders. It destroys the “self-sufficient” or socialist state fearing international finance. It also destroys boundaries that maintain separated identities and destroys ideologies that work only under insulation. It destroys the internal dominance of the state, too. Are India and Pakistan prepared to destroy some of their most cherished tenets?

Tribal societies, based on delimited food-scarce territories, are undermined by trade. Warriors don’t like trade and traders, but are partial to smuggling. The national security state, with a backlog of just wars to be fought for national honour, is aghast at the prospect of becoming “feminine” through accepting the “insertion” of enemy exports. Alas, both India and Pakistan are internationally rated as “non-exporting” countries.

The SAFTA agreement that both signed contains Article 8, which refers to the “removal of intra-SAARC barriers to investment” while making it possible for the weaker economies to seek protection through the “rules of fair competition”. India is arousing global ire because of its trade barriers, but it is getting away with its introversion after the world economy itself succumbed to being more and more “gated” after the recent collapse of international finance.

Who wants trade more, India or Pakistan? Pakistan wants it more, but its motive is “hidden” and therefore, paradoxically, noble: it wants to get rid of external war to which it contributes proxy warriors. India, on the other hand, is suspicious of Pakistani motives and, less honourably, mixes electoral politics with the question of trade. The Indian voter is angry with Pakistan, all right, but how can one remove the cause of it unless both states trade freely and allow cross-border investments?

The economist of today is the most subversive philosopher in history since Socrates. Imagine India using trade routes that spread like arteries across Pakistan’s sacred territory and the two-nation doctrine succumbing to the self-seeking passions of the non-warrior. Pakistan is a corridor of nothing, unless India violates it with its manufactures. How humiliating!

Pakistan is fast losing territory and culture to a creed that can only be compared to medieval Muslim conquests. It doesn’t feel it is being conquered because it is ideologically prepared for defeat. But, economically, this creeping transformation presages an end to the modern state through a retreat into a Hobbesian purgatory, where Islam rewards the heroics of bank-looting and kidnapping. This is the scenario after the Taliban succeed in setting up their emirate inside Pakistan.

The real death of Pakistan is coming gradually through the death of its culture. People make fun of “enlightenment” and “moderation” because they see the anti-cultural forces within and without the state winning territory on a daily basis. (Pervez Musharraf’s decree of 2006 to remove jihad from the textbooks was ignored by the provinces and the new textbooks actually made fun of “enlightenment” as an “alien doctrine”!)

Free trade and culture go hand in hand. The “monoculture” of free trade (read globalisation) …continued »

First Published on: April 25, 2014 12:12 amSingle Page Format
Do you like this story