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May 20, 2024

Trade Relations with India Suspended Due to Heavy Duties: Pakistan’s Ishaq Dar

Trade relations between Pakistan and India have remained suspended since 2019, following the imposition of heavy duties by India on Pakistani imports. Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, who also serves as the deputy prime minister, stated that this suspension is a direct consequence of the heightened tensions after the Pulwama attack.

In a written statement submitted to the National Assembly on Saturday, Dar detailed how India imposed a 200 percent duty on imports from Pakistan, halted the Kashmir bus service, and suspended trade across the Line of Control (LoC) in response to the Pulwama incident. The Pulwama attack in February 2019 was a significant event that escalated hostilities between the two nations, leading to severe economic repercussions.

Dar’s comments came in response to a query by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Sharmila Faruqui, who sought clarity on the trade challenges Pakistan faces with its neighboring countries, particularly India. The question underscored the ongoing difficulties and the need for a strategic approach to address these issues.

In March, during a press conference in London, Dar expressed the eagerness of Pakistan’s business community to resume trade with India. However, his office later clarified that there are no immediate plans to restart trade relations with India, as the situation has been stagnant since 2019. This indicates a cautious approach from Pakistan, balancing the economic interests with the prevailing political and security concerns.

The strained trade ties between the two countries were further exacerbated when Pakistan downgraded its diplomatic relations with India. This action followed the Indian Parliament’s decision on August 5, 2019, to abrogate Article 370, which granted special autonomy to the region of Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad perceived this move as a severe setback to the potential for dialogue and peaceful resolution of disputes.

“We have consistently advocated for constructive engagement and result-oriented dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir with India,” Dar emphasized on Saturday. He stressed that the responsibility lies with Delhi to create a conducive environment for peace and dialogue, reflecting Pakistan’s stance on the need for mutual steps towards normalization of relations.

India, on the other hand, has maintained its position that it seeks normal neighborly relations with Pakistan. However, it insists that Islamabad must take concrete steps to eliminate terrorism and hostility, which India views as critical for any meaningful engagement. The contrasting demands and expectations from both sides have led to a prolonged impasse, with neither side willing to make the first move without assurances from the other.

The historical context of the strained relations, primarily centered around the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism, continues to influence the diplomatic and economic interactions between Pakistan and India. The imposition of heavy duties and suspension of trade are manifestations of the broader geopolitical tensions that have plagued the South Asian region for decades.

In conclusion, the trade suspension between Pakistan and India serves as a reminder of the intricate link between economic activities and political dynamics. While there is a clear interest in resuming trade for economic benefits, the path forward remains complicated by unresolved political disputes and security concerns. The onus now lies on both nations to find common ground and take reciprocal steps towards fostering an environment conducive to dialogue and cooperation.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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