In a volte-face, Pakistan's Cabinet on Thursday rejected the proposal of a high-powered committee to import cotton and sugar from India, with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi asserting that there can be no normalisation of ties until New Delhi reverses its decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The somersault came a day after the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) under newly appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar on Wednesday decided to buy the two key items from India, lifting a nearly two-year long ban on their import from the neighbouring country.
Qureshi said the issue of import of cotton and sugar from India was discussed during the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan. "An impression is being created that relations with India have become normal and trade has been restored…," Qureshi said in a video message. "On this impression, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet had a consensus opinion that until India reviewed the unilateral actions of Aug 5, 2019, it would not be possible to normalise ties with India."
Talking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said that the Cabinet discussed the issue of ties and trade with India and decided that things cannot progress until India revokes its August 5, 2019 move on Kashmir.
"We want to cooperate with India but the first condition is that it should go back to pre August 5, 2019 position in Kashmir," he said. Finance Minister Azhar's announcement on Wednesday to import cotton and sugar from India had raised hopes of a partial revival of bilateral trade relations, which were suspended after the August 5, 2019 decision of New Delhi to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
India is the world's biggest producer of cotton and the second biggest sugar manufacturer. Azhar's decision became doubtful since afternoon but officials kept mum and finally the first confirmation came from Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, who is known for her hawkish stand on Kashmir.
"Today Cabinet stated clearly NO trade with India," Mazari tweeted soon after the Cabinet meeting.