Pakistan, India downplay trade talk

There has been no contact yet between the two neighbours on the issue


Kamran Yousaf September 02, 2022
Trade volume between Pakistan and Asean, including Indonesia, is not according to its true potential. Photo: file

ISLAMABAD:

Islamabad and New Delhi downplayed reports of a possible resumption of bilateral trade in the wake of devastating floods in Pakistan as the Foreign Office on Thursday said that there was no proposal currently under consideration to import certain commodities from India.

“We are in touch with countries in the broader neighbourhood to facilitate import of those commodities as early as possible. And as regards to India, currently there is no such thing under consideration,” Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said at a weekly news briefing.

Separately in New Delhi, the Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said he had seen reports concerning trade resumption from Pakistan but he had nothing to add to it at present.

“Regarding the floods that have hit Pakistan, Prime Minister Nardendra Modi has shared his sadness at the devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan. He has shared heartfelt condolences to the families of victims and all those affected by the natural calamity. For the moment that’s all I have to say on the issue,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagachi said.

“We have seen various reports on this topic. At this point, I have nothing further to add to the statement we have seen from Pakistan,” he said while responding to a question about the possible reopening of trade between the two countries.

Read: Pressure builds on govt to open trade with India

Official sources said despite statements by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail raising the possibility of resumption of trade with India there has been no contact yet between the two neighbours on the issue.

The issue of trade with India has come back into the spotlight after floods triggered by torrential rains have shot up commodity prices particularly that of onions and tomatoes in Pakistan.

Finance Minister Ismail said he would support any initiative that would lead to the import of food items at least from neighbouring India in order to tackle the skyrocketing inflation in the country.

People were already hard hit by the inflation and the current floods have exacerbated their problems. Onion and tomato prices have recorded an unprecedented increase as floods have destroyed crops and disrupted supply chains.

The government has already allowed import of these two daily use products from Iran and Afghanistan by relaxing restrictions.
But allowing imports from India can raise eyebrows and opposition from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

The finance minister, however, said it was not just him but the international aid agencies were also keen that Pakistan would lift restrictions on imports from India.
“More than one international agency has approached the government to allow them to bring food items from India through the land border.

The government will take the decision to allow imports after consulting its coalition partners and key stakeholders,” Miftah said in a tweet.

The latest FO statement indicated that there was no consensus among all the stakeholders on the resumption of bilateral trade with India.

In the past, effort was made to resume bilateral trade with India after both sides renewed the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in February last year. But the proposal could not go through the cabinet led by the then Prime Minister Imran Khan at the time.

The PML-N, which was in opposition, had criticised the proposal to reopen trade with India.
Pakistan suspended the bilateral trade and downgraded diplomatic ties with India in reaction to New Delhi’s unilateral move of revoking the special status of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.

Since then, Pakistan has linked the resumption of trade and normalisation of relationship with India reversing the Kashmir changes.

New Delhi, however, is adamant that it will not revert back to the old status of the disputed territory.

Without any concession on Kashmir, resumption of trade with India would be seen as a major policy reversal by Pakistan.

It is because of this reason that despite eagerness by the finance minister as well as certain business sectors, the reopening of the border for trade with India seems unlikely in the near future.

In the past, efforts were made to resume bilateral trade but the proposal was shot down by the PTI government in April last year citing possible public backlash.

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