Pak backtracks on import of cotton & sugar from India, day after giving nod

at 5:29 pm
Imran Khan
File pic of Imran Khan

New Delhi (NVI): A day after giving its nod to import cotton and sugar from India, the Pakistani government today did a U-turn on the decision, while Imran Khan faced stiff opposition over restoring the import of two commodities from the neighbouring country, according to local media reports.

In a crucial development yesterday, the Pak government had decided to restore trade with India, ending a nearly two-year bar on bilateral trade imposed by it in the aftermath of revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

As per a Geo TV report, the Federal Cabinet of Pakistan today rejected yesterday’s decision by Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to import cotton yarn and sugar from India.

The Cabinet meeting, which took place in Islamabad, was chaired by Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan. The meeting took place hours after Pak Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said cabinet will review the ECC’s decisions related to trade with India, reports Geo TV.

Shireen Mazari on Twitter said that the it is only after the cabinet’s approval that the decision will be considered by the government.

“Just for the record — All ECC decisions have to be approved by cabinet & only then they can be seen as ‘approved by govt’! So today in the cabinet there will be a discussion on ECC decisions including trade with India and then the government decision will be taken! The media should be aware of this at least!” Mazari tweeted.

In another tweet in the evening, Mazari said that there can be “no normalisation” of relations with India until they (New Delhi) “reverse” decision to abrogate Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi also echoed Shireen Mazari’s view on the matter, saying: “It was everyone’s unanimous decision, including PM’s, that until India doesn’t revise August 5 2019 decision to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, normalizing ties with India won’t be possible.”

Notably, the the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Pakistan federal government had approved the significant decisions. Pakistan’s newly-appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar announced in Islamabad after the meeting that cotton import from India will start by the end of June this year.

The Pakistani FM, who was addressing his first presser after being given the portfolio, spoke about the high prices of sugar in Pakistan, saying that the government had allowed sugar to be imported from other countries, but the price of the commodity in the supplier countries had risen considerably, the Geo TV report said.

He told the government officials since the price of sugar was “quite cheap” in India, so the ECC had decided to import it from the “neighbouring country”. He said the government estimated a difference of 15-20 per cent in sugar prices in India as compared to Pakistan.

Pakistan on August 9, 2019, had downgraded trade relations with India after Article 370 was revoked in Jammu and Kashmir, ending its special status.

In May last year, after Coronavirus pandemic struck, Pakistan partially lifted the ban on import of medicines from India. However, today’s decision is the first step of reversing the complete suspension of trade with India.

Previously, cotton, yarn and sugar imports were allowed from all countries except India.

The decision was seen as a significant moment in the slowly warming-up ties between the two countries which was reflected in the recent ceasefire pact between the two neighbors on February 24 to strictly adhere to the 2003 border ceasefire agreement.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a letter of greetings to his counterpart on Pakistan’s National Day on March 23, reiterating desire for peaceful relations. Khan replied to the letter, saying Pakistan also wants peace even as he put the rider of resolution of Kashmir issue.