Commerce Ministry says there is no change in trade policy with India

Wagah border in Lahore. Photo: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Commerce made it clear on Wednesday that there was no change in Pakistan’s trade policy with India, a press release said.

The Ministry of Commerce runs 57 trade missions in 46 countries, including the post of Minister (Trade and Investment) in New Delhi, India.

The position of Minister (Trade and Investment) in New Delhi has existed for over two decades and has no connection with operationalizing trade with India or otherwise in the current context.

The current round of selection of Trade and Investment Officers (TIOs) including New Delhi was launched in December 2021 and the final recommendations of the Interview Committee were sent to the Prime Minister’s Office on 1 April 2022 , that is to say under the previous government. The current government has given final approval to the recommendations of the previous government for the selection of 15 TIOs.

The appointment of the Minister (Trade and Investment) in New Delhi cannot therefore be seen in the context of a possible easing of trade restrictions with India. Earlier, former Foreign Minister and Pakistani Vice President of Tehreek-e-Insaf Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed that Shehbaz Sharif has decided to resume trade with India and the government should reconsider its decision.

Speaking to the media, Shah Mahmood said that we have learned that the government of Shehbaz Sharif has decided to resume trade with India and is deploying 15 officers to the Pakistani Embassy in India. “We had opposed the resumption of trade with India after the cabinet discussion at the time.”

Qureshi added that at the Foreign Ministry, he took a clear position and that on August 5, 2019, India took action in Kashmir against UN resolutions. He said that in the government of Imran Khan, there was a proposal to the cabinet to open trade with India as this decision would benefit us, but he and the cabinet also opposed the decision.

“Bilawal Bhutto is also silent on this decision. Have you got [Bilawal] consulted the government of Azad Kashmir on this decision? You have hurt the feelings of the oppressed people of Kashmir and the government should reconsider this decision. Azad Kashmir and Occupied Kashmir will also react to your decision. Whether India had reduced oppression in Kashmir is another matter. Has the status of Kashmir been restored there? No. Otherwise, this decision should be reversed,” Shah Mehmood said.

The PTI leader also added that there is currently a severe water crisis, farmers in Sindh, Balochistan and South Punjab are protesting but India is building a new project on the Chenab River and violating the Indus Basin agreement and Bilawal’s silence on all these issues raised a lot of questions.