Source: The New York Times
LAHORE, Pakistan — On the day the Indian trade delegation came across the border, Pakistan was having another political crisis. The prime minister was embroiled in a showdown with the country’s Supreme Court. Early elections were rumored. And Islamists had just staged a rally in Karachi to protest “foreign intervention” on Pakistani soil.
Not, perhaps, the perfect moment to hammer out closer trade ties.
Yet Rajiv Kumar, a leader of the Indian delegation, was pleased. It was mid-February, and his business group was staging the first Indian trade show ever held in Pakistan. Tens of thousands of visitors would attend during three days. And Indian and Pakistani business leaders, as well as both countries’ commerce ministers, swapped cards, sipped tea and feasted at lavish banquets.
“Look at this!” Mr. Kumar exclaimed as his car rolled up to the convention center here in Lahore, where crowds were thronging for the trade show. “My God! Quite good, I’d say.”
One truism about the tortured relationship between India and Pakistan is that there is never a perfect moment. For six decades, through three wars and one nuclear standoff, diplomats have tried, and failed, to improve relations. Now, the private sector is giving it a shot. Trade has become the most promising opening in the latest round of diplomacy, as progress remains largely stalled on tough issues like terrorism, water rights and the status of Kashmir.