Trade resumption with India

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IN a major development, Pakistan on Wednesday decided to allow import of sugar, cotton and cotton yarn from India through land and sea routes.

Justifying the move, Finance Minister Hammad Azhar said the decision would be time and cost effective and would also help stabilize sugar prices in the domestic market.

He argued that it will help improve supplies and discourage price hike in Pakistan as sugar in India was 15pc to 20pc cheaper.

No one would disagree with the Minister on the benefits of trade with neighbours and surely timely import at comparatively cheaper rates and with less transportation costs always have a salutary impact on the overall price situation.

However, this is not a simple question of economics as trade ties between Pakistan and India are intrinsically linked to political and security issues.

Therefore, the question arises whether there has been any change in the ground realities to justify trade resumption as the decision to suspend trade was taken following India’s illegal and unilateral annexation of Occupied Kashmir in open defiance of UN Security Council resolutions 38 and 47 of 1948.

There is so far nothing on record to instil confidence that India was willing to reverse its decision, lift-off the siege of oppression against people of Jammu and Kashmir and stop attempts aimed at changing demography of the disputed region.

These were the minimum bench-marks for people of Pakistan for resumption of talks and normal trade ties and that too provided New Delhi was willing to discuss the Kashmir issue in a meaningful and result-oriented manner.

Under these circumstances, resumption of trade with India without securing any guarantee on these crucial issues amounts to sending dampening signals to Kashmiris who rightly bank upon political, moral and diplomatic support of Pakistan.

Otherwise too, Pakistan would get no advantage from resumption of trade other than overcoming shameful shortage of agricultural products as Pakistan’s exports to India comprised just under $ 400 million out of $5 billion bilateral trade due to tariff and non-tariff barriers by New Delhi.

There might be some foreign policy compulsions but people are dismayed over unreciprocated moves.