Will mauritian government at last open a gate way for pakistan


By Bashir Nazeer

Mauritius and Pakistan signed a Preferential Trade Agreement(PTA) in 2007. This trade agreement covers a list some one hundred products for each country on which both sides agreed to trade on preferential trade. It was believed that this preferential trade would create a momentum and would pave the way for the two countries to embark on Free Trade Area that will encompass a larger trade coverage of about 6,000 products on duty free. But nothing has happened. The PTA has envisioned the setting up of a Joint Trade Committee with officials from both sides that would meet annually, either in Port Louis or Islamabad, to assess the trade situation of the two countries. Nothing has happened. It seems it is not a priority for the Mauritian government. The Mauritians do not realise the strategic importance of Pakistan as a trade conduit to landlocked countries of Central Asia. They do not seem to be aware of the strategic role of mega deep-seaport of Gwadar which is an outlet in the Indian Ocean for the maritime Silk Road in which China has invested massively. There is a trade highway ( both rail and motor that runs from Gwadar through the Karakoram pass till the interior of China. A ship consignment, that normally takes about 45 days from the Indian Ocean via Strait of Malacca to reach China, can be delivered within a week in the interior of China. Mauritius, which has the ambition to become a maritime hub for African countries, unfortunately is not willing to see beyond its nose, limiting itself in an India-centric narrow vision. There has never been a delegation from the Mauritian  maritime sector visiting Karachi or Gwadar or at the least talking to their counterparts in Pakistan.Many Mauritians  still have the perception that Pakistan is a failed state and they little realise that despite the occasional instability prevailing there,the country is advancing, at times bewildering the pundits of the World Bank in their forecasts. In Mauritius, everybody agrees that the future of Mauritius lies in an open sky policy, yet our policy makers are blindfolded when it comes to Pakistan. It is almost four decades since we are talking of  an air link with Pakistan, yet nothing is happening. We all agree that  are China is a huge market for our tourist industry and hence the need for increased number of air connections. The simple geometry indicates that the straight line from Mauritius via Karachi or Islamabad to Beijing is the shortest route that the diagonal route via Singapore or Hong Kong. Surely, there is something wrong in the calculation of our air strategists.