Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Hammad Azhar announced that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet has decided to import sugar and cotton from neighbouring country, India. He further added that this decision has been taken to cater to the increasing local demands and check rising inflation. According to Azhar, the sugar prices in India were much lesser as compared to Pakistan, so the government decided to open sugar trade through private sector with India and import 0.5 million tons of the commodity. He said the cotton had high demand in Pakistan after surge in textile exports while there was also not a good cotton crop last year, so the ECC also decided to import cotton from India to benefit small industry of the country.
Interestingly, this was the first meeting of Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet under new Finance Minister Hammad Azhar, who took charge of the ministry just a day before. In first ever meeting under Azhar, the ECC took a huge jump by negating the over two years foreign and Kashmir Policy of the country and turning blind eye over 600 days siege of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) on the hands of Modi and his rogue Army. Whether the novice Finance Minister does not aware of the fact that Pakistan had stopped all trade and diplomatic relations with India until it reverses all its actions in IIOJK of August 5, 2019. Whether, Finance Minister and ECC did appraise the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) regarding this out of box solution to lower the inflation in the Country or took solo flight for New Delhi. In fact, PTI government ousted former Finance Minister Dr. Hafeez Shaikh a day before while arguing a continue inflation as a failure of Shaikh. The attempt of the government to initiate trade with India is a cover up move to validate its stance against Hafeez Shaikh.
On other side, if it is a deliberated move of the PTI government in the backdrop of open or back channel diplomacy then it must take the nation and political leadership of the country in confidence before heading to restore trade relations with India. Kashmir issue is not a case of internal politics where PTI government could change its course by a simple U-turn by putting the garbage on opposition or an outgoing member of the team as per practice in vague. Earlier, Prime Minster Imran Khan has echoed a controversial statement on the Kashmir issue during his speech at Kotli Public Meeting on the eve of Kashmir Solidarity Day on 5th February this year, which was later clarified by the Foreign Office’s Spokesperson.
As per foreign policy experts, although the ice between Pakistan and India is melting down and relations are on upward trajectory, but this an early stage for opening up the trade relations with a stanch enemy which did not slides an inch from its position. During recent exchange of statements between India and Pakistan regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call for dialogue, both sides put the responsibility of creating enabling environment on each other. In the backdrop of Wednesday ECC’s decision of sugar and cotton import from India, whether people of Pakistan should consider this move as a step to create enabling/ conducive environment for dialogue. If so, it is very unfortunate and hasty. Whatsoever the case may be, the government must be careful in dealing the Kashmir issue as it would have strings for the government too.