Federal Cabinet of Pakistan overturns a government committee’s decision to resume trade ties with India, links normalisation of ties to restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status

Published : April 02, 2021 12:15 IST

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister. Photo: Anjum Naveed/AP

In a major U-turn, the federal Cabinet of Pakistan on April 1 overturned the proposal of a high-powered committee to import cotton and sugar from India. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, said that until India reversed its unilateral decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, there could be no normalisation of ties between the two countries.

Shireen Mazari, Minister for Human Rights, Pakistan, tweeted: “Today Cabinet stated clearly NO trade with India.” She went on to tweet: “Just for the record—All ECC decisions have to be approved by Cabinet & only then they can be seen as ‘approved by govt’! So today in Cabinet there will be discussion on ECC decisions incl trade with India & then govt decision will be taken! Media shd be aware of this atleast!”

Shah Mahmood Qureshi later briefed the press: “A perception was emerging that relations with India have moved towards normalisation and trade has been opened. There was an exchange of thoughts on this and there was a unanimous opinion on this and it was the Prime Minister’s [opinion] as well that as long as India does not review the unilateral steps it took on August 5, 2019, normalising relations with India will not be possible.”

On March 31, Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee approved the import of cotton yarn from India until June. This announcement was made by Muhammad Hammad Azhar, the country’s Finance Minister, at a briefing in Islamabad. Pakistan had also agreed to purchase 500,000 tons of sugar from India.

Trade between the two countries deteriorated after India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan following the Pulwama attack in February 2019 in which 40 Indian soldiers were killed.

In August 2019, after India unilaterally withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic relations and suspended bilateral trade with India.