Dar says Pakistan to examine trade situation with India

Published March 24, 2024
Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar addresses a press conference at Pakistan High Commission in London on March 23. — PID
Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar addresses a press conference at Pakistan High Commission in London on March 23. — PID

Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar has said that the relevant stakeholders would “seriously examine” the trade situation with India as he highlighted the concerns of the business community.

Pakistan, under the government of then-prime minister Imran Khan, had downgraded diplomatic relations with New Delhi and suspended all bilateral trade in August 2019, when India revoked occupied Kashmir’s special status by repealing Article 370 of its constitution.

In March 2021, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had announced it would allow the private sector to import 0.5 million tonnes of white sugar from India and cotton via the Wagah border. However, the decision was reversed within days following severe criticism from the opposition.

In December, ex-premier and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had stressed the need to improve relationships with Pakistan’s neighbours, stating: “We have to fix our affairs with India and Afghanistan as well, [and] strengthen them further with Iran and China.”

Addressing a press conference in London on Saturday, Dar, who has previously served as the finance minister, termed the August 2019 move by India as an “extreme step” and “very painful”. He noted that there were United Nations Security Council resolutions present on the “ongoing dispute”.

However, the foreign minister highlighted that the business community often made appeals and demands with regards to the trade situation with India.

Recalling a meeting with the business community before presenting last year’s budget, he said, “Everyone’s appeal was the same — that our imports, which are still ongoing, arrive via Dubai or Singapore, [resulting in] extra freight, extra transhipment, transportation costs, etc.

“So we will seriously examine this. All of us stakeholders will sit together and see whether we can […] at least to the extent of economic activities and trade,” he said.

“We will see what can be done about it,” the ex-finance minister said, stressing: “ But I cannot give you a ‘yes or no’ answer because it requires consultation.“

‘Pakistan shouldn’t be misunderstood’

Commenting on the recent tensions between Islamabad and Kabul following a strike on militant bases in Afghanistan, Dar said that Pakistan “should not be misunderstood”.

“Firstly, they (Afghanistan) are our neighbours. Secondly, they are our brothers and thirdly, we have a common culture. I am upset that despite the new [Afghan] regime … such [terror] acts should stop now,” the finance minister said.

“You can’t change your neighbours. We must keep that in mind. Our neighbours are permanent. India is also our neighbour, as well as Afghanistan, Iran and China. We have to co-exist with them,” Dar emphasised.

Referring to the National Action Plan made following the 2014 Army Public School attack, he said the core message of it was that “we will not allow our territory, our soil to be used for any terrorist activities against any other country”.

“We stand by that resolve and commitment, and even today, try our best to implement it,” he asserted, noting that Pakistan’s policy was to “always be very transparent”.

Recalling his positive communication with Afghanistan’s Interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on March 16, Dar said he received the news of the North Waziristan terror attack while on call with his Afghan counterpart.

He said Muttaqi condemned the attack, following which he suggested to the Afghan official that “it would be better to issue a public statement”.

“Pakistan then decided to have a kinetic counter-response,” Dar said, adding that he told Muttaqi: “According to what is reported to me, the Gul Bahadur Group is responsible for this — the TTP is being used — and its leadership is in your country. Please take action on this and hand them over to us.”

However, the foreign minister lamented that “no meaningful action” was taken. He asserted that the strike conducted by Pakistan was not against the people, government or military of Afghanistan but was an intelligence-based operation targeted at terrorist hideouts.

Resumption of PIA flights to UK

Speaking about the future resumption of Pakistan Int­ernational Airlines’ fli­ghts to the United Kingdom, Dar said the government would “make every effort” to fulfil the remaining global requirements.

“I came to know a few of their requirements now. In my opinion, everything was done and the inspection had taken place,” he said, adding he was “taken aback” upon finding out that the civil aviation ministry had yet to do more work on the matter.

“I assure you that the prime minister is more keen and in a greater hurry than me. So we both will make every effort and fulfil whatever global requirements there are,” the finance minister asserted.

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