(UPDATING EARLIER COPY)
New Delhi (NVI): The Pakistan government today decided to import cotton and sugar from 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.
Cotton import from India will start by the end of June this year, Pakistan’s newly-appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar announced in Islamabad after the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal government approved the significant decisions.
He said the decision on cotton import has been taken in view of high demand for it because Pakistan’s textile exports had increased while the domestic cotton crop last year was not good.
Azhar added that the Pakistan government had also decided to allow the country’s private sector to import 5 lakh tonnes of white sugar from India.
The minister said sugar trade was being restarted with India this year because the prices of the commodity in India are much less as compared to that in Pakistan.
He said the government estimated a difference of 15-20 per cent in sugar prices in India as compared to Pakistan.
“We have allowed the import of sugar but in the rest of the world too, sugar prices are high because of which imports are not possible. But in our neighbouring country — India — the prices of sugar are much less as compared to Pakistan so we have decided to reopen sugar trade with India for up to 0.5 million tonnes for the private sector,” he said.
Pakistan on August 9, 2019, had downgraded trade relations with India after Article 370 was revoked in Jammu and Kashmir, ending its special status.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 Textile Division of Pakistan government had sought permission from the ECC to lift the ban on import of cotton and cotton yarn from India in a bid to bridge raw material shortfall for the value-added textile sector.
In addition to this, the commerce ministry also sought permission to allow import of white sugar from India through the Trading Corporation of Pakistan and commercial importers.
This major decision comes after a number of such significant announcements and developments over a period of last one month, which suggested easing of tensions between the two countries.
First was the agreement on February 24 between the militaries of the two countries to strictly adhere to the 2003 border ceasefire agreement. It was coupled by the peace talk by Pakistan’s all-powerful Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and Prime Minister Imran Khan.
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.
Given these developments, it looks like efforts are underway between the two countries to move towards normalisation of ties.