Pakistan Cabinet on Thursday rejected the country’s Economic Coordination Council’s (ECC) proposal to lift a nearly two-year-old ban on sugar and cotton imports from India. Pakistan Finance Minister Hammad Azhar had on Wednesday announced the ECC, a top decision-making body, has allowed the private sector to import 0.5 million tonnes of white sugar as Islamabad tries to keep soaring domestic prices in check.
However, a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday rejected the ECC proposal to import cotton yarn and sugar from India, Geo TV reported, citing sources. There was no official word on the decision of the Cabinet.
Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Khan’s close aide and Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that all ECC decisions have to be approved by Cabinet and only then they can be seen as “approved” by the government.
Pakistan was one of the leading buyers of Indian cotton until 2019, when Islamabad banned imports of goods from India after New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The decision has been deferred until India reinstates Article 370 of its Constitution, which guaranteed a semi-autonomous status for Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan had suspended all bilateral trade with Indian following New Delhi’s decision to revoke Article 370 in August 2019.
“Today Cabinet stated clearly NO trade with India,” Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari tweeted.
She said Prime Minister Imran Khan had made it clear that “there can be no normalisation of relations with India until they reverse their illegal actions” regarding Kashmir taken on Aug 5, 2019.
Speaking to Geo News, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also said the cabinet had ruled that “normalising relations with India will not be possible” until it overturned the measures it took regarding occupied Kashmir’s special status.
“A perception was emerging that relations with India have moved towards normalisation and trade has been opened,” Qureshi said. “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.”