ISLAMABAD, Jan 31 (APP): Federal Minister for Commerce, Khurram Dastgir Khan, terming the brutalities of occupying forces in Indian held Kashmir as an issue of human suffering, has said that Europe-a standard bearer of human rights of the rights of minorities, must see the Kashmir situation purely as an issue of human suffering and try to do whatever it can to protect those people.
In an interview, carried on Tuesday in News Europe (English Media Belgium), he said that Kashmiries were suffering there; they were blinded and killed besides a planned change of demography thereby Indian authorities converting Muslim majority into minority by settling Hindus in the occupied valley.
Responding to a question about his handing over a report on human rights violations in a neighbouring country, India, which is not usually what Trade Ministers do, Dastgir said he had not given the report to trade commissioner Mr. Malmstrom, but handed over to the new President of the EU Parliament, Mr. Tajani, who has to deal with these issues. “The reason I gave the dossier is to remove the label of ‘India-Pakistan’ from the Kashmir and see it as an issue of human sufferings’”
The local media pointed out that as soon as Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the USA from the Trans-Pacific free trade agreement known as TPP, the Pakistani Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan rushed to Brussels in order to assess his country’s trade relations with the European Union.
This comes at a time when uncertainty also reigns over other treaty being negotiated by the US with the EU. Pakistan now expects being able to take advantage of these uncertainties and to expand markets, the interviewer-the contributor Editor Dan Alexe said.
To a query, Khurrram Dastgir Khan said that USA has traditionally been Pakistan’s single largest export market. There will be no extraordinary changes now. ‘At the moment, we are analyzing the situation we would like to be engaged in. Particularly, Pakistan is exporting many goods that are no longer produced in the US, particularly textiles. Still, since 2014 the EU became a major partner and gave us the GSP+ status. We wanted the Americans to give us the same status, but apparently both Bush and Obama’s administrations thought that Congress and the Senate would not agree to such concessions.’
However, he maintained that the kind of ‘protectionism’ Trump is promoting, was worrisome for Pakistan.’ If different countries start to go down that way, parts of the global economic regime will be upset,” he said. That’s why we are now in very close cooperation with the EU and with the World Trade Organization, he added.
It is joint effort and support to each other against protectionism, he said. We can see that in the last 30 years, trade, particularly in China, has been the single and the greatest instrument that brought out hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, he argued adding that Pakistan wants to use this tool to reduce poverty and bring prosperity to its citizens.
When his attention was drawn towards the electricity shortage which is pre-requisite ingredient for industrial output vis-a-viz exports, the minister said that Chinese investment is coming to us in different areas, including in solar and green energy. But it is not just the Chinese who invest in our country. Pakistan is also financing from its own resources three major natural gas fields. The Chinese have been major investors, and we expect by the middle of next year to bring in some additional ten thousand megawatts into the system, which will be more than sufficient to cover our shortages, he added.
About the regional competitors, Khurram Dastgir Khan said that China was very competitive indeed, but Pakistan has the whole chain of production, including cultivating cotton and sending it up to the cloth factories. “We produce clothes and textiles without relying on outside aid. We export across the whole region”, he added.
He said in the last 5 years, India has become major competitor, although 5 years ago that was not the case. India also has the whole chain of production. Similarly, Bangladesh is very competitive, he said. But Bangladesh has had this status for a long time and it doesn’t need any concession from our side, he argued.
About the vulnerability of Pakistan’s textile production and exports, the minister said in the last two seasons, Pakistani crop had some problems.
“We are also vulnerable to the world prices”, he maintained.
About Indian Prime Minister Modi’s threat to use water as a kind of weapon in the ongoing conflict with Pakistan, Khurram said “we take the threat very seriously. We will ensure that it will not happen, because water is a life and death matter, and restricting access to it would have very serious consequences. We would like India to respect our Indus Waters 1960 agreement. There were a few serious issues recently that we would like to resolve by negotiations”. However, any threat to violate this treaty will be taken very seriously and retaliated, he warned.
Pakistan, he said is committed to reach peace and “we do not want the water issue to be used as a threat to us. We want to reach mutual prosperity through economic connectivity with India, because the shortest way to reach prosperity is through trade with your neighbours”, he remarked.