Challenges Loom as Pakistan FM Eyes India Trade Resumption

Dar said that the business community of the country had expressed its willingness to reopen trade routes with India…reports Hamza Ameer

Pakistan Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar has revealed that he has started internal consultations with the country’s business community on the revival of trade activities with India.

The latest statement from the Foreign Minister is an extension of his previous statement in which he expressed the desire to re-open trade with India.

Dar, while speaking with mediapersons at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, said that the business community of the country had expressed its willingness to reopen trade routes with India.

He said that trade of general commodities and medicine is already being done through different routes, including Dubai, which increases the cost of trade and business.

He added that his earlier statements in which he expressed his aspiration to reopen trade routes and trade with India were based on the strong recommendations and demands of the business community.

The Minister said that he is working on a plan that includes having discussions and approval from the relevant quarters.

The Foreign Minister’s statement comes at a time when his own party colleague and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had said that there was zero possibility for trade with India due to the ongoing Kashmir dispute.

Experts say that while Dar’s statement is heartening, it still remains uncertain if it would sail through approvals from the military establishment and the other relevant ministries, including the Cabinet that has maintained a rigid position on matters related to India.

“Pakistan’s official position is that it will not have any talks with India on trade until the issue of Kashmir is not given top priority. Keeping this in view, I do not think that re-opening of trade would be a very easy step to take for Pakistan,” said senior political analyst Adnan Shauqat.

“Ishaq Dar has had a fair share of criticism from all sides when he gave such a statement after taking over as Foreign Minister. Secondly, consultation with the business community may just be far easier than trying to present the same to the Cabinet and especially the military establishment for approval,” he added.

Islamabad-based senior journalist Kamran Yousaf said that the concerns of the business community are justifiable because the cost of trade with India through the Wagah-Attari border would be far much cheaper than routing it through Dubai.

“The business community is right to demand the reopening of the India-Pakistan trade route through Wagah because it is cheaper than using a third country like Dubai for trade of basic commodities,” he added.

“However, we have to keep it in mind that, according to Dar, it is just an initial phase of consultation being done with the business community and there is a lot more to be done before getting any tangible outcome. Secondly, India is in a phase of elections at the moment and until that is over, there would be no clarity on the issue,” he said.

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