Pakistan on Wednesday lifted a two-year ban on the import of sugar and cotton from India, a major move aimed at reviving trade ties with New Delhi amid easing tensions, The Hindu reported. India is the world’s biggest producer of cotton and the second biggest sugar producer.
The decision to partially resume trade ties by allowing the import of cotton and 0.5 tons of sugar from India was taken at a meeting of the economic coordination council, Pakistan’s top decision-making body on commerce, the country’s finance minister Hammad Azhar, told AP.
Azhar, however, said that the action was driven by Pakistan’s personal interests, namely to reduce the soaring prices of sugar in the country.
“We have allowed the import of sugar, but in the rest of the world too, sugar prices are high because of which imports are not possible,” he told reporters. “But in our neighbouring country, India, the prices of sugar are much less as compared to Pakistan, so we have decided to reopen sugar trade with India up to 0.5 million tonnes for the private sector.”
New Delhi is yet to make any comment on the decision.
Pakistan was one of the leading buyers of Indian cotton until 2019, when Islamabad banned imports of goods from India after New Delhi revoked the special status and statehood of Jammu and Kashmir.
While India had not banned trade with Pakistan, it suspended trade across the Line of Control, and withdrew the Most Favoured Nation status given to Pakistan after relations between the neighbouring countries nosedived in the wake of the constitutional changes made in Kashmir.
PDP welcomes Pakistan’s decision to lift ban
The Peoples Democratic Party of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday welcomed the resumption of trade relations between India and Pakistan, saying broadening the scope of engagement was pivotal for the restoration of durable peace in the subcontinent.
The party also urged the two countries to work out the modalities for the resumption of cross-Line of Control trade in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest.
Wednesday’s push came amid a gradual thawing in ties between the two neighbours.
The militaries of both countries released a rare joint statement last month, announcing a ceasefire along the Line of Control. The declaration reaffirms the commitment of both the countries made during the 2003 ceasefire agreement.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi also exchanged peace overtures, saying they wanted peaceful ties with each other. Modi had written to Khan on the occasion of National Day of Pakistan on March 23, saying that India desires “cordial relations with the people of Pakistan”. In his response dated March 29, Khan reciprocated the Indian prime minister’s sentiments.
Last week, a Pakistani delegation had arrived in India for a meeting of the permanent Indus commission. This was the first such dialogue in more than two-and-a-half years. During Pakistan Day celebration in Delhi on March 23, Aftab Hasan Khan, Charges D’Affaires of the Pakistan High Commission had said that that the two countries should resolve all bilateral problems, especially that of Jammu and Kashmir through dialogue.
Earlier this week, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had also said that it was time “to bury the past and move forward”.