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Pakistan halts plan for partial restart of India imports

April 1, 2021

Pakistan had attempted to restart limited trade with its rival on Wednesday. Trade was halted between the two countries after India's actions in Kashmir in 2019.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would not renew ties with IndiaImage: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP

Pakistan's government put a hold on restarting limited imports of sugar, cotton and wheat from India until India reviews its 2019 decision to revoke the Kashmir region's special status.

Pakistan's Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had given the go ahead on Wednesday to bring in imports, which would have ended nearly 20 months of trade suspension between the rivals.

"It was a consensus decision, including the prime minister, that as long as India doesn't review the August 5, 2019, unilateral steps it took, it wouldn't be possible to normalize relations with India," said Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

However, the decision to halt the imports was deferred for the time being, not completely overturned.

"There was a debate (in the cabinet), and I tell you a majority isn't in favor that we start trade with India without talking about the Kashmir issue," an anonymous source told Reuters.

What is Kashmir, and what changed in 2019?

Kashmir is a territory that is claimed by both India and Pakistan and partly controlled by each, with China also controlling the most remote segment of the region. India and Pakistan fought two of their three wars over the Kashmir region.

Pakistan halted trade and diplomatic ties with India in 2019 after India imposed direct rule on the part of the region it administers and imposed strict security controls there in anticipation of unrest at the decision.

The region had previously been semi-autonomous, with its own constitution. The situation in Kashmir was so intense that European lawmakers held crisis talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Both countries withdrew their diplomats and consulate staff due to the incident.

Despite their rivalry, Pakistan had been one of the leading buyers of Indian cotton until 2019.

In February, both countries agreed to continue a ceasefire at the often-tense Kashmir border. Bloomberg reported last week that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) brokered back-channel talks between the two nations.

"The government has not taken any decision for resumption of trade with India," said Pakistan science and technology minister Fawad Chaudhry.

Will Kashmir's young politicians bring hope to the region?

kbd/msh (AFP, Reuters)