India and Pakistan take a step in the right direction

Violence along the border has been rising, but new trade agreements can establish needed trust

While violence along the border between India and Pakistan has been rising in the disputed Kashmir region over the past month, coverage of the tensions is hiding a surprising reality: warming economic relations between the countries are giving rise to hope of a thaw in their historically strained relationship.

Trade between the nuclear neighbours has been rising steadily since 2004 and hit nearly US$2.7 billion in 2011; it’s expected to increase further since the two nations signed several new trade agreements last fall. And an expansion of the Wagah-Attari border crossing—the main land route between India and Pakistan—last April has allowed previously heavily restricted truck traffic to jump significantly.

All this is good news, says University of Western Ontario professor Salim Mansur: “Trade, travel and commerce will help to break down suspicion between the two peoples.” He cautioned, however, against getting too hopeful, noting that the trade agreements were a long time coming and there are still many other issues that need to be worked out. Still, “any small step forward in a long journey is positive and something to be cheered,” he says.

The new trade arrangements are expected to increase bilateral trade to $8 billion in the next two years.