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Facing economic stagnation, Pakistani trade and business circles seek normalisation of trade with India

Pakistan should trade with India and normal trade channels should be opened now, said a senior official in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, amid growing chorus in Pakistan for normalising trade relations with India, which remained almost frozen since 2019 when New Delhi ended the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir

Feb 21, 2022
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Pakistan-India trade (Photo: Dawn)

Pakistan should trade with India and normal trade channels should be opened now, said a senior official in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, amid growing chorus in Pakistan for normalising trade relations with India, which remained almost frozen since 2019 when New Delhi ended the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The trade with India is very beneficial to all, especially Pakistan. And I support it,” Abdul Razak Dawood, Prime Minister Khan’s advisor on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Investment, was quoted as saying by Dawn.

Speaking at an exhibition in Karachi, Dawood said on Sunday, “As far as the ministry of commerce is concerned, its position is to do trade with India. And my stance is that we should do trade with India and it should be opened now.”

The comment from a senior government official is significant and the realization of an urgency to resume trade ties with India as the country’s economy continued to struggle despite no progress in bilateral ties between the two neighbors.

Islamabad severed its trade ties with India weeks after New Delhi in August 2019 stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status and bifurcated the state into two union territories.

Significantly, Pakistan’s National Security Policy, unveiled last month, also suggested the country avoid hostility with India for the next 100 years and decouple trade and business ties with the final settlement of the Kashmir issue. [Read More]

Earlier, a Pakistan billionaire businessman, Mian Muhammad Mansha, also highlighted the urgency to resume trade with India.

“There are no permanent enemies... we need to resolve things with India,” Mansha said, recalling that over 50—60 percent of Pakistan’s total trade was with India before the 1965 war. 

“If the economy does not improve, [Pakistan] may face disastrous consequences. Pakistan should improve trade relations with India and take a regional approach to economic development,” Mansha added.
 
In a recent interview, Prime Minister Khan, however, claimed that the talks with India wase only possible if New Delhi restore the special status of Kashmir. Political parties with the active backing of Islamists have over the years politicized the Kashmir issue in Pakistan, making it extremely hard for any government to improve bilateral ties in other areas as well. Earlier in March 2021, Pakistan had tried, though unsuccessfully, to resume limited business ties, by allowing the import of sugar from India. However, Prime Minister Khan was forced to roll back the initiative after he faced fierce resistance from his own cabinet colleagues. (SAM)

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