Backdoor diplomacy with India ongoing, may bear fruit: Mian Mansha

LAHORE: Pakistan’s leading businessman Mian Muhammad Mansha claims that backchannels are working between Pakistan and India that will hopefully yield good results.

“If things improve between the two neighbours, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could visit Pakistan in a month,” the chairman of Nishat Group told a gathering of businessmen at the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday.

He advised the two countries to resolve their disputes and start trade to fight poverty in the region.

“If the economy does not improve, the country may face disastrous consequences. Pakistan should improve trade relations with India and take a regional approach to economic development. Europe fought two great wars, but ultimately settled for peace and regional development. There is no permanent enmity.”

Trade relations between Pak­istan and India have been suspended since August 2019 when New Delhi revoked the law providing special status or autonomy to occupied Kashmir. There have been reports of backchannel talks last summer between the two economies of the region brokered by a Gulf state. However, the government said the talks were discontinued due to Indian repression of the people of held Kashmir, as well as its refusal to recall its troops from the valley and restore its special status.

On the domestic front, Mian Mansha said “progressive, market-oriented policies” were the key to success. Through price control to capital market operations, reducing trade barriers and minimising state influence on the economy, especially through privatisation and austerity, Pakistan can truly achieve rapid growth.

Privatisation, he added, promotes various sectors of the economy. The telecom sector is an example where privatisation has enabled everyone to gain access to everything from telephone to cheap calls.

“Good deeds of the state should be appreciated. It is good that motorways were built in the country, development work was carried out expeditiously, but the state should focus on the sectors on which billions of rupees are being lost annually,” he suggested.

Mian Mansha said privatisation of airports, along with the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), would boost their efficiency and standards, and the sector would become economical.

The railways, he further said, was a lucrative entity during British rule, but has now become a liability for the state. “One of the reasons for the high electricity cost is state intervention.”