Pakistan businesses ask for trade ties with India, new government agrees to consider demand

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ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: Pakistan‘s new govt may resume trade ties with India in deference to the demands of local businesses, the country’s foreign minister Ishaq Dar said at the end of his UK-Europe visit.
Dar’s statement about ending the nearly five-year suspension of trade over India revoking J&K’s special status in August 2019 comes weeks after PM Shehbaz Sharif thanked counterpart Narendra Modi for his congratulatory message on X.
India, however, believes Pakistan must first reinstate its high commissioner in India before nursing any thought of a rapprochement with India. Pakistan had recalled its top diplomat from India and called off trade after India revoked the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Known to be a dove in India-Pakistan diplomatic parlance, Dar is a trusted aide of Nawaz, whose daughter is married to the foreign minister’s son. India will wait though to see if the four-time finance minister’s remarks have the backing of the army, given its own experience with the previous Sharif government. Foreign minister S Jaishankar had only on Saturday accused Pakistan of promoting terrorism at “industry level”.
“Pakistani businessmen want to trade with India…the govt will examine the possibility by holding consultations with all stakeholders,” foreign minister Dar said at a presser at the Pakistan High Commission in London on Saturday.
Pakistan could prioritise reviving the economy before considering normalising ties with India, he indicated even as he broached Kashmir.
“India took extreme steps in August 2019 by making a constitutional and legal amendment that was very painful,” the foreign minister said, also mentioning “UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir” and a “dispute that lingers”.
“But I believe the Pakistani business community has been making this appeal and demand (to resume trade with India),” he said.
The geopolitical divide has impacted businesses on both sides, mainly those focused on cross-border commerce, mainly in textiles, agricultural products and medical items.
“They (businesspeople) pointed out that imports are continuing via Dubai and Singapore with extra freight and transportation costs,” Dar said. “Let’s see what can be done, at least to the extent of economic activities and trade…You can’t change your neighbours. We have to coexist.”
India and Pakistan have laid down prerequisites for normalising bilateral ties, frozen since 2019. Pakistan remains firm on J&K’s erstwhile special status, while India insists Article 370 is its business and off the agenda for any bilateral talks.
India has often correlated Pakistan with cross-border terrorism and has expressed zero tolerance on this.

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