A day after rejecting a proposal to resume the import of sugar and cotton from India, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan held a high-level meeting on Friday to discuss the future of bilateral relations, concluding that trade ties between the neighbouring countries cannot resume if New Delhi did not restore Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The development underscored that Pakistan’s deep state has once again prevailed in scuttling a forward step in the frosty bilateral relations, even though the ice was thought be melting after the two sides agreed to a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) on February 25.
Sources in Pakistan say that country has been facing a shortage of sugar and cotton, and that people are buying sugar at exorbitant prices. Resumption of import from India could have helped bring down the prices and provide relief to the common man. But that hope was dashed as well with Islamabad playing the Kashmir card.
Sources said Khan called the meeting to discuss relations with India, and that it was also attended by foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, planning and development minister Asad Umar and human rights minister Shireen Mazari, among others.
The issue of restoration of trade ties with New Delhi was taken up and foreign ministry officials briefed the ministers on the subject. But in the end, there was no progress.
Khan said India and Pakistan cannot resume trade ties unless the “issue of Kashmir is not resolved”, according to the sources. He added that restoration of trade ties would give a “wrong impression to the people of Kashmir”. The meeting decided that there will be no trade activities between the neighbours until Article 370 is restored.
The Indian government nullified Article 370 on August 5, 2019, contending that the move will usher in development in the region in the long run. Officials have time and again told Pakistan, which objected to the move, that it was India’s internal matter.