In a sign of further thawing of diplomatic ties, Pakistan today approved the resumption of cotton and sugar imports from India.
Its newly appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar announced the Pakistan Economic Coordination Committee’s (ECC) decision to import 0.5 million tonnes of white sugar and cotton from India. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also Minister-in-Charge of Commerce and Textile, had approved the proposals put before the EEC.
The imports are being framed as a necessity. Azhar said Indian sugar was currently the cheapest in the world and Indian cotton imports would bridge the raw material shortfall for the textile sector.
The first signs of resumption of trade will bring relief to the region as well as the eco-system around Wagah that became a hostage to the rising tensions. Trade had begun declining even before Pakistan banned all trade with India on August 10, 2019, after the change in status of J&K. India retaliated a day later by imposing 200% duty on Pakistani trade.
Pakistan had lifted the ban on import of medicines and raw material from India in May last year but today was the first biggest step in reversing the suspension of trade between the two countries.
However, this is a symbolic gesture because the largest share of Indian exports to Pakistan is accounted for by polypropylene, reactive dyes, pharma and tea. Some of the items going through Wagah to Pakistan such as pharma and chemicals are manufactured in the region, which would get a fillip once trade of these items also resumes. It remains to be seen whether India will reduce the heavy duty on import of fresh fruits, cement, sesame seeds and gypsum, some of the main Pakistani items consumed here.
On Tuesday, Imran Khan had replied to PM Narendra Modi’s greetings on Pakistan’s National Day and expressed the hope that both countries would be able to close the chapter of over five years of acrimony. Though both leaders kept up this civility even when tensions had peaked after Pulwama, their letters this time had centrally positioned the desire for peace. A few days earlier, the Indus Commissioners of both countries had met after over a year, in part because of Covid-related restrictions. However, there is no word on reopening of pilgrimage through the Kartarpur corridor.
But a Pakistani sports team had travelled here to take part in an international competition after a long time. These rapprochement measures are undergirded by a surprise joint statement by military commanders from both countries on February 26 that decided to re-implement the ceasefire agreement on the border.
India yet to take call on Pak goods
Pakistan had banned trade with India on August 10, 2019, after the change in status of Jammu and Kashmir. A day later, India imposed 200% duty on Pakistani goods.
1st major step in reversing trade suspension
- Pak lifted ban on import of medicines from India in May last year
- Its Wednesday’s decision is first biggest step in reversing trade suspension
- Move a symbolic gesture as its largest share of Indian exports included polypropylene, reactive dyes, pharma & tea
(Tribune News Service)