Trucks carrying Indian commodities for Pakistani traders arrive at the India-Pakistan Wagah border in April 2019. Image Credit: EPA

Islamabad: Pakistan’s government on Wednesday announced it would resume trade with India in a sign of rapprochement in relations between the two countries.

Pakistan’s economic coordination committee (ECC) agreed to import sugar and cotton from India, said the newly appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar at a media talk in Islamabad on Wednesday.

To help stabilise prices, Pakistan has allowed the private sector to import 500,000 tonnes of sugar from India where the price of sugar is 15 to 20 per cent cheaper, he said. Pakistan’s total sugar production capacity stands at 5 to 6 million tonnes, he said.

The country would also import cotton from India starting June this year. Pakistan, which is among the world’s top cotton-producing countries, witnessed an alarming decrease as cotton production fell by 34 per cent to 5.57 million bales in January 2021 – the lowest in 30 years, according to Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA). “To keep the momentum of our value-added exports, ECC approved import of cotton and cotton yarn from India” via land route, said PM’s commerce advisor Abdul Razak Dawood.

Pakistan downgraded diplomatic relations and suspended bilateral trade with India in August 2019 after New Delhi revoked autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir region.

On March 29, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan replied to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s greetings on Pakistan Day with a letter calling for an “enabling environment” to resolve outstanding disputes. Khan said that the people of Pakistan desire peaceful relations with all neighbours including India. He, however, stressed that “peace and stability in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all outstanding issues…in particular the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”

Pakistan’s Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa in his recent speech also said that “It is time to bury the past and move forward” for regional peace and prosperity.

In February, the two neighbours announced a rare joint commitment to restore the 2003 cease-fire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) to de-escalate tensions. Another sign of positive development was the meeting of Pakistan and India Indus Water commissioners in New Delhi on March 23– 24 after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.