Aziz's performance at SAARC Summit criticised
Apr 12, 2007 - 4:32:48 PM

Islamabad, April 12 - Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has come in for severe criticism from a leading Pakistani daily for not making any headway on economic cooperation with India and other member nations of SAARC at its 14th Summit in New Delhi.

'Pakistan must be the rare country that uses a banker prime minister to block trade,' Daily Times said in an editorial Thursday, criticising Aziz's performance at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation -.

Expressing disappointment for Pakistan, and a measure of praise for India, the influential English language daily wondered: 'Where was President Pervez Musharraf when we needed him? Where was his out-of-the-box thinking?'

It castigated Aziz's insistence on raising the Kashmir issue to block any cooperation on the economic front with India and other South Asian nations.

'Aziz kept trying to disarm the audience by claiming that Pakistan was not scared of trading with India; after all it was trading with China whose goods had flooded the Pakistani market, but his 'peace-first' rhetoric sounded hollow,' the newspaper observed.

Aziz had claimed to have 'unbundled' the Iranian gas pipeline from India-Pakistan disputes. 'But why not 'unbundle' Kashmir too?' it asked.

Aziz, it said, 'is known for his smoothness but said things quite out of character for a banker. He said outstanding political issues should be sorted out first before free trade materialised between the two countries - a brief given by the establishment.

'But he must have wondered why he was losing India's capital investment in Pakistan along with the Arabs of the Gulf. Let's face it. Pakistan's remains a non-smooth state with a smooth premier,' the newspaper said.

It asked: 'Is India the six hundred pound gorilla in the room? Is New Delhi the regional spoiler that suffocates all its 'peripheral' neighbours with its size and tough bargaining? Maybe it is. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared to trump Pakistan by isolating it with his statement that, by the end of 2007, India will have concluded free trade agreements with all countries of the SAARC except Pakistan, which was unwilling to reciprocate even India's gesture of granting Pakistan the Most Favoured Nation status.'

'Then he cracked the whip: India will give 'zero duty' concession to all - its trade partners except Pakistan,' the editorial noted.

'India rolled forward with radical visa concessions to all, including Pakistan. Pakistan sat there and watched, its outlook marred once again by an obsession with Kashmir although there was no need to be so costive about it.

'Pakistan can show its internal political audit that it was giving nothing away on Kashmir while going ahead with the free trade negotiations,' the newspaper said.

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