Lost in Translation — Almost!

During the Cold War governments arbitrarily imposed and scrapped, raised and lowered import and export duties to punish and favor other countries or their own industries. The GATT (General AGreement on Tariffs and Trade) — which later evolved into the WTO (World Trade Organi­zation — wanted to stop this to stabilize trade among nations and interlink humanity for improving the quality of life and reducing the threat of large scale war. It came up with the policy that “a country should not discriminate between its trading partners (giving them equally ‘most-favored-nation’ or MFN status).” Granting MFN simply means that one nation will not arbi­trarily discriminate against others by erecting capricious trade barriers.

India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996, but Pakistan did not re­ciprocate. But Indian goods enter Pakistan through Dubai at increased cost for ordinary working class Pakistanis. Smuggling of goods from India is also rampant. So, in November 2011, Pakistan decided to grant India the MFN status, which only means that Pakistan would treat India as it treats its all other trading partners.

But nothing is simple in India-Pakistan relations given the 70-plus years of bitterness – the Pakistan Resolution (1940); India’s colonial occupier Britain in 1947 hastily and arbitrarily partitioning the subcontinent into India and Pakistan; murder and rape of millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in the Partition; 3-1/2 wars (1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999); and the divergent understanding of the earlier Turkic/Persian/Afghani/Mongol invasions and the Mughal rule over India. The only thing common between the two are mutual suspicion, sense of betrayal, which often morph into hatred.

For Pakistan, it was difficult to sell the idea of granting the MFN status to India through the Urdu press dominated by the mullahs. Pakistani of­ficials told their Indian counterparts that their biggest difficulty in granting MFN status to India is that its Urdu translation will create havoc. The Most Favored Nation status would be translated literally into Urdu as Subse Chahati Mulk, or Sabse Qaribi Mulk, or Sabse Pasandeed Mulk, or Sabse Inaayati Mulk, or Subsay Dularee Qaum. In Urdu, chahati, qaribi, pasandeed, inayati, and dulari respectively mean desired, closer, desired, favored, and darling.

These phrases, when taken literally by a population unfamiliar with the nuances of the history of WTO and international trade, would mean that the Pakistani government is getting cozy with India. In Pakistan, where hatred of India is part of the school curriculum, these Urdu expressions are triggers for the Islamic fundamentalists and the mullahs to cause trouble for the government. That is how things almost got lost in translation.

Finally, beginning 2013, trade between India and Pakistan would be normalized, insha Allah!! By KSV

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