The Pakistan government on Thursday deferred the decision to import cotton and sugar from India, a day after the country’s top decision-making body on commerce lifted a ban to facilitate the trade, the Dawn reported.
In a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, the Pakistan government decided that the import will be deferred till India revokes the abrogation of Article 370, which in August 2019 abolished the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said in the meeting that there can be “no normalisation of relations” with India unless the abrogation of Article 370 was reversed. Earlier on Thursday, Mazari had tweeted that the matter would be discussed in the meeting as decisions of the Economic Coordination Committee, which had given the green signal for the import, are needed to be cleared by the Cabinet.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also echoed the same view, the Hindustan Times reported.
“A view was emerging that relations with India were heading towards normalisation and trade had opened up,” Qureshi said, while speaking after the meeting. “We discussed the matter and it was unanimously decided...and the prime minister agreed that unless India reconsiders the unilateral decision it took on August 5, 2019, it will not be possible to normalise relations with India.”
The Pakistan Cabinet’s decision can be seen as a stumbling block in what was emerging as a gradual thaw in the bilateral relations between the two countries, since they 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 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.
The decision by Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee to allow trade to resume was being seen as a major step in the normalisation of relations, even as India had not commented on the matter.
Since the announcement of ceasefire, multiple developments gave signals that the two countries were taking steps to resolve their differences.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi 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”.