Lawmakers say the recommendation cannot be implemented so long as Delhi refuses to revisit its decision to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status
Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Thursday deferred a recommendation of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to allow the import of cotton and sugar from India, with minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain saying normalization of trade relations was not possible until Delhi revisited its decision to end the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Prior to Hussain’s press conference, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi issued a video statement claiming that the cabinet had decided against endorsing the ECC’s proposal after much debate, noting that there was an impression ties between the neighboring nations had normalized despite no progress on the Kashmir dispute. He said the cabinet had unanimously decided that normalization of bilateral trade ties was not possible until India revoked its decision to treat Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir as a union territory.
In his post-cabinet media interaction, federal Science and Technology Minister Hussain clarified that ECC recommendations did not reflect the government’s decision-making, as they required further debate before implementation. He stressed that the Government of Pakistan had clearly maintained that normalization of trade relations with India was only possible if Delhi ended its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
Acknowledging that better ties between the two states could prove a “game-changer” for the South Asian region, and yield economic prosperity, he said this progress could not be achieved at the cost of India-held Kashmir.
The cabinet’s deferral decision has raised eyebrows among observers, who have noted that as in-charge of the Commerce Ministry, the prime minister had endorsed the ECC’s proposal. Opposition lawmakers have claimed the cabinet’s decision is a virtual “no-confidence” of the premier’s decision-making.
Hussain noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his written response to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Pakistan Day greetings, had stressed the need to come forward and resolve the Kashmir issue. The incumbent government’s stance remains that peace in Kashmir is key to durable peace in South Asia, he added.
“If India withdraws its Aug. 5, 2019 move, new avenues of cooperation can be opened between the two countries,” he reiterated.
According to local media, Prime Minister Imran Khan has convened a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and senior officials of the Foreign Office to review Pakistan’s ties with India in light of the cabinet’s deferral decision. Sources have claimed that the premier will decide on the scope of ties with India in light of the meeting.
The government has also decided to constitute a cabinet committee to deliberate further on issues related to trade with India.