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Pakistan Decides Against Resuming Trade With India

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Prime Minister Imran Khan stresses that normal trade cannot resume until Delhi revisits decision to abrogate special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday, after consultations with key members of his cabinet, decided that Pakistan will not proceed with resuming any trade with India until Delhi is willing to revisit its Aug. 5, 2019, decision to declare the disputed Jammu and Kashmir a union territory.

A day earlier, the federal cabinet had deferred a decision on a proposal by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to allow imports of sugar and cotton. Finance Minister Hammad Azhar had told a press conference that the proposal was intended to reduce prices of the commodities and would “benefit the poor.”

However, his proposal—advanced on the advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan in his capacity as commerce minister—was rubbished by the federal cabinet, which questioned the message being sent by resuming trade while India continued its human rights abuses in India-held Kashmir.

According to sources, during Friday’s meeting, it was decided that Pakistan could not resume trade with India until it restores the constitutional status of India-held Kashmir. “It is our principled stance not to resume trade with India until the Kashmir issue is resolved,” the prime minister was quoted as saying during the meeting. He reportedly claimed that resuming trade would give the false impression that Pakistan had decided to neglect the desires of Kashmiris.

The sources further said that the prime minister had instructed the Ministry of Commerce and his economic team to take steps to facilitate the sectors that would be impacted by the trade decision, adding that he had urged them to find alternative cheap sources of import.

Two hats

Following the meeting, Special Assistant to the P.M. on National Security Moeed Yusuf appeared on Geo News and said that the ECC had been advised to import cotton and sugar from India due to the lower import costs. However, he stressed, the ECC could merely propose such matters and the decision to implement them rested with the federal cabinet.

To a question on why a summary approved by the prime minister, in his capacity as commerce minister, was sent to the ECC and then subsequently rejected by the cabinet, Yusuf claimed this reflected the “the strengthening of institutions.”

He claimed that Khan served two different roles as prime minister and commerce minister. He “may be the same person but he wears different hats in this case,” he said, adding that the commerce minister had merely sought to examine the economic impact, while the prime minister had to look at the larger picture and examine the political repercussions.

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