Pakistan to ‘seriously examine’ restarting trade with India: Foreign Minister

Pakistan to ‘seriously examine’ restarting trade with India: Foreign Minister

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A file photo of Pakistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ishaq Dar
| Photo Credit: AFP

Pakistan will “seriously examine” whether to restart trade with India, said its newly appointed Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar. Responding to questions during a press meet in London, Mr. Dar said he had been approached last year by Pakistani businesspersons over the issue, and said any decision would follow a full discussion with all stakeholders. Meanwhile, visiting Singapore, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankarhit out at Pakistan for its “industry-level” support to terrorism, stressing that any talks with Pakistan would need to “face up to the problem”. 

In 2019, both India and Pakistan had taken trade measures against each other — after the Pulwama bombing in February, India had withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan and raised tariffs on all trade multi-fold, while after India’s Article 370 moves in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, Pakistan had suspended direct trade ties with India amidst a number of other diplomatic measures. The closure of trade had mostly affected businessmen and transporters engaged at the Attari-Wagah land border, and on Sunday, the Amritsar-based chamber of commerce expressed hope that a rethink would follow after the Pakistani Foreign Minister’s comments, calling on New Delhi to reciprocate.

“What India did in 2019, the steps they took to amend the constitution and law, that was very painful,” said Mr. Dar, speaking in London on Saturday, where he referred to UN resolutions on Jammu Kashmir.  “But I think the business community of Pakistan is very keen [to restart trade]. When I presented the budget as Finance Minister last year, businessmen pointed out that the imports [from India] are coming in even today — they come via Dubai or via Singapore and involve higher freight, trans-shipment and other transportation costs,” he added, saying that all stakeholders in Pakistan would “sit together and discuss what we can do, to the extent of trade and economic activities.”

Declines to comment

The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the remarks by the Pakistan Foreign Minister. Speaking at the National University in Singapore at an event about his book, “Why Bharat Matters”, Mr. Jaishankar said that in India the “mood is not to overlook” the issue of terrorism. 

“It’s not a one-off happening…but very sustained, almost at an industry level, an assembly line of people whose job it is to do bad things [terror],” Mr. Jaishankar had said on Saturday, responding to a question about bilateral ties with Pakistan. “India will not skirt this problem anymore. We are not going to say… [terrorism] happened, [but] let’s continue our dialogue because that’s very important… We must be honest enough to face up to that problem, however difficult it is.”

Speaking to The Hindu, the Amritsar-based Director of the Confederation of International Chamber of Commerce and Industry “welcomed” Mr. Dar’s initiatives for discussions on restarting trade and said the suspension had left the Integrated Check Point at Attari built at considerable investment “idle”.

“India had hugely invested in building the most modern land port here in 2012 fully equipped with all facilities, that handled about 200 trucks a day,” businessman Ashok Sethi told The Hindu. “We strongly urge the Indian government to react with positive intent as normal economic activity would be mutually beneficial to both the nations,” he added, estimating that thousands of crores had been lost in the past five years. 

(With inputs from Vikas Vasudeva in Chandigarh)

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