‘India Important Partner, Neighbours Can’t be Changed’: Pak’s Foreign Minister on Resuming Trade Ties

A study conducted by an international financial institution showed that the true trade potential between Pakistan and India could be over $25 billion. (Image for representation: News18)

Trade ties between India and Pakistan have remained suspended since August 2019. Indicating a potential shift in diplomatic stance, Pakistan said it will “seriously” consider restoring trade activities

Pakistan wants to restore trade ties with India as it is an important neighbour, said the country’s foreign minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar. In their last budget, he said, all business stakeholders wanted trade to resume between the two countries. “Neighbours can’t be changed and India is an important strategic partner,” he added.

Dar further said all stakeholders will be consulted and a decision will be made after reviewing the proposals. India, meanwhile, said it will take this positive step only when Pakistan will stop talking about Kashmir, sources told CNN-News18.

Trade ties between India and Pakistan have remained suspended since August 2019. Indicating a potential shift in diplomatic stance, Dar said Pakistan will “seriously” consider restoring these relations. He was speaking at a press conference in London following his participation in the Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels.

Highlighting the eagerness of cash-strapped Pakistan’s business community to resume trade activities with India, he said during his last budget, all those in business wanted this to happen but they are unnecessarily paying logistics and freight charges for import from India.

Dar further said earlier the two countries used direct trade route of India-Pakistan, which has to now come through Dubai. At a closed-door meeting, he said while he feels bad for the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, the two countries have to move on.

“We welcome this statement and India will take any positive move if they stop terrorism and they will stop talking about Kashmir. Abrogation is an Indian internal matter and Kashmir is an integral part of India,” said top Indian government sources.

Pakistan had downgraded its diplomatic ties with India after the central government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two union territories.

Will Pakistan take a page out of China’s playbook?

The chances of trade with India remains elusive due to lack of consensus among the stakeholders regarding the restoration of trade relations between the two neighbours, The Express Tribune newspaper reported, quoting sources familiar with the development.

Sources told the paper that there was no concrete proposal on the table at this stage regarding the resumption of trade ties between Pakistan and India. It is believed that there are differences of opinion among the stakeholders regarding the move. Even within the foreign office, there are divided views, something sources said was not unusual.

Some are in favour of sticking to Pakistan’s stance that without any major concessions from India, there should not be any normalisation. However, others take a more pragmatic and realistic view. They believe Pakistan can take a page out of China’s playbook. China has uneasy ties and border disputes with India, yet this has not deterred the two rivals from trade ties.

A study conducted by an international financial institution spoke of the great trade potential between Pakistan and India. It shows that the true trade potential between Pakistan and India could be over $25 billion.

Despite the frosty ties, the two countries agreed to renew the 2003 ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) in February 2021. Lately, too, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a post on X congratulated Shehbaz Sharif on becoming the head of Pakistan’s government, prompting hopes for a diplomatic thaw.

Sharif responded days later with an equally curt post, thanking Modi for his “felicitations”. The Sharif-led coalition government came to power after the February 8 elections but it began its tenure with a dwindling economy which needs immediate improvement.

(With PTI inputs)

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