Pragmatic | No Pakistan-specific non-tariff barriers

Contrary to the prevalent myth, India doesn’t have any Pakistan-specific non-tariff barriers

It is a myth we have been perpetually fed, not only by Pakistani analysts but also by their Indian counterparts, both of whom wish to mirror-image India with Pakistan. We have been told that Pakistan’s decision to not grant the Most Favoured Nation status to India when India has already granted Pakistan the same status in 1996 has no meaning because India has applied Pakistan-specific non-tariff barriers for imports from Pakistan. As this has practically nullified the benefits of bestowing the MFN status on Pakistan, Pakistan’s decision to not grant the MFN status to India is justified.

Now the truth. Here is what Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary told Pakistani Senate Committee on Commerce:

He said the demand was made after exporters complained about Indian non-tariff barriers which could hinder trade. He however, said “there are no Pakistan-specific non-tariff barriers but India is strict in applying (quality control) standards”.[ET]

On such myths are the presumptions of India’s esteemed columnists, analysts and Track-2 types fed to this country. The truth is however, even now, unlikely to open their eyes. These Indians may have their reasons to be apologetic about Pakistan but why has the Indian government maintained a studied silence on the matter. None of its ministers or diplomats have put this information in the public domain.

This should not surprise us either because Indian governments have a history of being nice to Pakistan. In the words of Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary:

In 1996 India removed restrictive regime and gave Pakistan MFN status and since then it has remained subject of immense debate based on political considerations rather than purely on trade and economics.

India did not contest MFN status in WTO providing an opportunity to Pakistan to walk away despite violation of international trade laws. “Had India gone to the WTO, it would have embarrassed Pakistan”, said Mahmood.[ET]

From 1996 till date, India has had governments from across the complete political spectrum — Third Front, BJP-led NDA and now the Congress-led UPA. This period also coincides with the phase where India has suffered the most from terror controlled by Pakistani state agencies. It was during this period that Kashmir was wrecked by terror perpetuated by Pakistan, and the Kandahar hijacking, the Kargil conflict, and the 26-11 Mumbai terror strikes took place. At no point did India raise the subject of MFN status in the WTO and shame Pakistan in front of the world community. Moreover, it could have also raised questions about the viability of Pakistan’s continuation in the WTO, leading to its further economic isolation.

India, of course, never chose to exercise that option. This consensus across our political spectrum to be nice and apologetic to Pakistan — even under repeated grave Pakistani provocations which have consumed thousands of Indian lives — defies comprehension.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.