The suspension of trade with India was unilaterally decided by Pakistan as a tit-for-tat response to the Modi government’s ending the special status of Kashmir in August 2019 Some time ago, our top leadership was singing loudly the song of geo-economics, but when the time came when the idea could be transformed into a reality, it ran away head over heels. This is the case with democracy as well. We want democracy, but we don’t need regional trade to ensure the uplift of the people down to the grassroots. Clearly, we do not have a real democracy, nor do we understand its requirements. The latest incident, or so to speak tragedy, with our ability to understand the world around us, occurred when an Arab country convinced us that it was in our best interest to restore trade with India. The proposal was put in the mouth of Hamad Azhar, who was then the Finance Minister. He made an announcement that sugar and cotton would be imported from neighbouring India as commodities were cheaper than other countries. In the context of the country’s weak financial position and inflation straining the nerves of the people in street, it was very a reasonable suggestion. The Ministry of Trade, whose portfolio was with the Prime Minister, endorsed Hammad’s proposal. So, when the proposal was sent to the cabinet for approval, it was not likely to be rejected. The suspension of trade with India was unilaterally decided by Pakistan as a tit-for-tat response to the Modi government’s ending the special status of Occupied Kashmir in 2019 Analysts and commentators trying to understand Hamad Azhar’s announcement in context were convinced that a major change in the region had become imminent. There were speculations about the origins of the proposal and both Washington and Beijing were mentioned in this regard. India’s silence made the matter even more mysterious. The suspension of trade with India was a unilateral decision of Pakistan as a tit for tat reaction to the Modi government’s ending the special status of Kashmir in August 2019. Pakistan protested but India did not back down. So, trade could not be restored. On the contrary, New Delhi increased the pressure on the Lin of Control (LoC). In this backdrop, if the Finance Minister had announced the resumption of trade, it caused a lot sensation because a few days ago, an agreement had suddenly emerged on the LoC, which was implemented with immediate effect and the guns roaring since two years were silenced —it was really a big relief to the Kashmiris living on the both sides of the divide. Thus, the belief was strengthened that if border peace could be restored so swiftly, trade could resume any time soon. As for as conflicts are concerned, they don’t last between neighbours forever. European countries fought deadly wars but today they are at friendly terms. China is trading with India despite its claim to its whole a province. Pakistan and India also have to reconcile one day or another. The pandemic has engulfed the whole world and it has turned a lot upside down. If change in our part of the world begins with trade, then there is no problem. However, as soon as this proposal came to light, it started to be opposed in a very slow manner and trade with India was termed synonymous with the Kashmir deal. Hamad Azhar’s proposal was rejected in the cabinet. But the withdrawal of Hamad Azhar from the finance ministry has nothing to do with his hasty proposal. Ever since the departure of his predecessor Hafeez Sheikh, there has been a talk of Shaukat Tareen replacing him and it was clearly understood that the appointment of Hamad Azhar was temporary. It was a mystery as to what were the factors behind Hamad Azhar’s talk of resuming trade with India. This mystery was however resolved a few days before the cabinet reshuffle when a senior Emirati diplomat claimed that his country was active in normalizing Pak-India relations and that the efforts were being supported by the new US administration. Thus, it has become clear that it was the United States, not China, which had pushed the countries towards peace on LoC. The Emiratis had also persuaded India that it was in their best interest to bring relations with Pakistan to pre-Pulwama levels; toning down rhetoric would yield to it another major relief after the tension with China had eased. Why did the government change its mind then and backed off after agreeing on the benefits of trade with India? The UAE may have been shocked by our unexpected action and perhaps the United States was disappointed that we as a people who cannot even think of our own benefit but are not tired of talking about geo-economics. However, all we understood, and acted accordingly, was that the Arab friends, instead of shaking hands with Iran, had embraced Israel and sacrificed Palestine in the process, lest we follow in their footsteps and lose Kashmir. The Arabs have neither religio-political parties nor democracy but our case is completely different. The worst fear the government was seized with was that an apparently good trade deal could prove politically very expensive.