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Pakistan considers resuming trade with India – top diplomat

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Pakistan considers resuming trade with India – top diplomat

The foreign minister hinted that Islamabad might be willing to revive trade ties with Delhi, which have been in a deep freeze since 2019

Pakistan will “seriously explore” according to the newly appointed Foreign Secretary Muhammad Ishaq Dar will restore trade relations with India and act on the sentiments expressed by its business community. Diplomatic ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbors have remained in the deep freeze, with little sign of a potential thaw. On Sunday, New Delhi accused Islamabad of being a sponsor of terrorism “almost at an industrial level.”

Dar, who took office earlier this month after Shehbaz Sharif became Pakistan’s new prime minister after months of political turmoil, was answering questions at a press conference in London. A senior diplomat noted that despite what he described as New Delhi “very painful” in 2019 to change the status of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region claimed by Islamabad, businesses in the country want trade ties with India to be restored.

“I think the business community of Pakistan is very excited [to restart trade]. When I presented the budget last year as Minister of Finance, businessmen drew attention to imports [from India] they still come today – they come via Dubai or via Singapore and involve higher costs for shipping, transshipment and other transportation,” the minister was quoted as saying by Indian media. He added that the government will invite stakeholders to discuss what can be done to revive trade relations with India.


Modi promises investment in conflict-torn Kashmir

In 2019, after a deadly attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, India withdrew the most-favoured-nation (MFN) status it had previously granted to Pakistan and also increased import duties. Later that year, Pakistan suspended direct trade with India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government decided to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which guaranteed Kashmir some autonomy.

Foreign Minister Dar’s statement on Sunday was followed by remarks from his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who noted that any negotiations with Pakistan would have to “face the problem” of his alleged stance on terrorist groups.

In his speech in Singapore, Jaishankar said: “Every country wants a stable neighborhood…if nothing else, you at least want a peaceful neighborhood.” However, he added: “How do you treat a neighbor who makes no secret of using terrorism as a tool of statecraft?” “It’s not a one-time event,” he continued “but very maintained, almost industrial level.”

Jaishankar warned that “avoidance [terrorism] the problem will get us nowhere” and swore that New Delhi “He’s not getting around this problem anymore.

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Last year, a parliamentary panel in India urged the Modi-led government to consider reviving economic ties with Pakistan. A report presented to Parliament in July states the necessity “Consider establishing economic ties with Pakistan if they step forward and seek wider people-to-people contacts in view of the cultural commonalities and civilizational ties between our two countries. The document was drafted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, which consists of 31 members from different political parties.

The latest figures show that despite frosty relations, India-Pakistan trade stood at $1.35 billion between April and December 2022, up from $516 million for all of 2021. Before bilateral trade was officially suspended in 2019, India’s exports to Pakistan were $2.06 billion, while imports were valued at $490 million.

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