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Pakistan could consider importing vegetables, edible items from India after flood havoc: Pakistan Finance Minister

Pakistan Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said on Monday that the government could “consider importing vegetables and other edible items from India” to facilitate people after floods destroyed crops across the country, media reports said.

Ismail was addressing a press conference in Islamabad and made the comment in response to a question, Radio Pakistan reported.

Pakistan had formally downgraded its trade relations with India in August 2019 to the level of Israel with which Islamabad has no trade ties at all.

The decision had come as a reaction to India’s decision to revoke Article 370 of its Constitution that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

According to a source, former security advisor Moeed Yousuf was working on some proposals regarding trade with India. On record, former commerce advisor Razak Dawood also spoke on several occasions for resumption of trade with India, Dawn reported.

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 main opposition parties– PML-N and PPP — which are now in a coalition government.

With a change in the federal government this year, the Ministry of Commerce in May ruled out the possibility of a resumption of stalled bilateral trade, Dawn reported.

The response came from the Commerce Ministry over the widespread speculation on social media that the government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was considering a proposal to resume trade with India.

“There is no change in Pakistan’s policy on trade with India,” an official announcement from the Commerce Ministry had said.

However, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in June had advocated the case for trade and engagement with other countries, especially India. The minister had put greater emphasis on engaging India, saying it is time for pivoting to economic diplomacy and focusing on engagement.

The Foreign Office had subsequently issued a clarification on Bilawal’s comments, saying that there was no change in Pakistan’s policy towards its eastern neighbour and there was a “national consensus” on this, Dawn reported.

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