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Free-wheeling dealing

The Nano could steer the birth of Pakistan's middle class. But it may take some drive.

india Updated: May 05, 2011 21:33 IST

Things are already looking up in Pakistan. The most potent indicator? No, it's not Osama bin Laden being forcibly made to leave town by the Americans. The good signs come from across the border where the poppy plant doesn't bloom. There's an interest from a Pakistani company in selling that symbol of social mobility, the Tata Nano. The imaginatively named International Multi Group of Companies has businesses in edible oil and is Pakistan's largest importer of Indian films. Now, the group wants to import automobiles including the Nano and CNG buses from the Tata Group.

While it may seem like a small deal about a small car crossing a non-neighbourly border, the entry of the Nano in the Pakistani market could well be revolutionary. Till now, the car-owning population in the country has strictly been the rich in their (bullet-proof) SUVs and rugged landowners in the deceptively ragged Toyotas. The Nano may, inshallah, lead the Pakistani nation to the birth of a middle-class, something that neither the legendary television soaps nor its free media has able to prop up.

The Nano hasn't been able to usher in the demographic revolution in the country of its birth as was pitched by its manufacturers. But perhaps India-Pakistan relations will finally manage to make that great paradigm shift after diplomatic relations are privatised, and what better way to kickstart this new non-governmental 'Track Four' diplomacy than through a Tata company. In a country that desperately needs a middle class — or at least a visible one — what better way than to wheel it out on an affordable set of wheels?