Modi’s rise to power will not affect India-Pakistan trade relations: Zubair Ahmed Malik

Interview with President FPCCI

zubair-ahmed-malikNarendra Modi’s coming to power will not make any difference to Pakistan’s trade ties with India, said Zubair Ahmed Malik, president, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI).

In an interview with Nayanima Basu on the sidelines of a Ficci seminar, Malik, one of Pakistan’s top businessmen, said either Modi or (Rahul) Gandhi, whoever comes to power, will have to support the trade normalisation process. Excerpts:

It is going to be almost two years since Pakistan missed the deadline to grant most favoured nation (MFN) trade status to India. A World Bank reports states that this will be to your benefit only?

You are right. I have always said if we can have a free trade agreement (FTA) with China, then why are we scared of India? We have to give MFN to India. If India will get access to 200 million people, we will get access to a market of 1 billion plus.

Industry has to compete and we can form a very important part of the value chain with India. Unfortunately because of the elections in Pakistan and the upcoming elections in India the trade normalization process has slowed down.

That means MFN now rests on India’s general elections in 2014 and what if Narendra Modi comes to power, do you foresee a problem because he does not appear to be much friendly with Pakistan?

Absolutely not. Why should we have problems if (Narendra) Modi comes to power? We have to respect the mandate of the people of India, whosoever comes at the helm of affairs, we have to continue doing business here. We do not have to deal with personalities, which is why the process has to be institutionalized.

But there are fears that Modi might stall the process?

Will he be the only one taking decisions? No, I do not think so. All the bureaucracy and political parties will be there. Also, when you are on the chair, the demands of that chair are different and then the attitudes also differ. So I have no qualms whether Mr. Modi comes to power or Mr. (Rahul) Gandhi comes. The dealing has to be between the two countries, its people, its businessmen.

Do you think if Modi comes to power, his foreign policy will be favourable towards Pakistan because in his speeches he has often blamed Pakistan for cease-fire violations at the Line of Control (LoC)?

Modi will not even talk about it when he comes to power because by then they would have achieved what they wanted to achieve. They will not utter a word about it.

One major skirmish on the LoC and the entire trade dialogue gets impacted from both sides.

Why do these happen at the LoC and why does it always happen at the time of elections? Last five years there was not a single incident. But when the elections have to take place in Pakistan and in India these incidents start happening because our political leaders play on these incidents to get a popularity vote.

Do you not think Pakistan missed the opportunity compared to Bangladesh where we have liberalised the trading regime unilaterally?

We are not in competition with Bangladesh. Irrespective of what Bangladesh is getting or not getting, we have to find our own place here in terms of quality and competitiveness of the products.

What about your agriculture and pharmaceuticals lobbies which are stalling the trade normalisation process?

There will be some hurdles in the way. They can delay or halt the process for some time but they cannot stop these countries from doing business with each other. Both the countries are capable of handling these hurdles.

These people who are creating the hindrances within the private sector they must know that the protections they enjoy is not going to last forever and that they must learn to survive competition.

Why is (Pakistan) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif still holding the commerce minister’s portfolio? Getting a formal commerce minister might accelerate the dialogue?

I also believe there has to be a commerce minister, we do have a minister of state. I think they were waiting for the by-elections to take place. It is important. I will be taking it up with the PM.

Courtesy Business Standard

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