ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Abdul Razak Dawood, has said Pakistan needs to open trade with India, saying that it would be “very beneficial” for the country. “Trade with India is the need of the hour and beneficial to both countries, also, Russia wanted to do investment in the field of construction and lay pipelines in Pakistan”, he said.
Pakistan’s cabinet last April put off allowing imports of cotton and sugar from neighboring India until Delhi reviewed its 2019 move to revoke the Kashmir region’s special status. Earlier, in an effort to cool local demand and prices, Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), the country’s top economic decision-making body, had given the go-ahead for the imports, which would have ended nearly two years of trade suspension between the nuclear-armed rivals. But the foreign minister announced the next day the decision had been deferred after a “consensus opinion.”
“As far as the ministry of commerce is concerned, its position is to do trade with India. And my stance is that we should do trade with India and it should be opened now,” Dawood was quoted by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper as telling media on Sunday at an exhibition by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan. “Trade with India is very beneficial to all, especially Pakistan. And I support it.”
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Both control parts of the region but claim all of it.
The announcements about deferring the trade of cotton and sugar last year had come amid a gradual thawing between the two neighbors after their militaries released a rare joint statement in February 2021, announcing a ceasefire along the Kashmir border.
Pakistan was one of the leading buyers of Indian cotton until 2019, when Islamabad banned imports of goods from India after New Delhi revoked the special status of its portion of the Kashmir region.
Pakistani buyers have reportedly already been making inquiries about buying Indian sugar and cotton, which is being offered at lower prices than supplies from other countries.
Indian traders say they have been offering Indian white sugar at $410 to $420 a tonne on a free-on-board (FOB) basis, far lower than the domestic price of $694 quoted in Pakistan.
About the exports to Afghanistan, the advisor said his ministry had increased the number of exporting items to Afghanistan (in Pakistan rupee) to 17. “Still various businessmen are contacting me to include their articles / items in this list as they also want to export their goods to Afghanistan in Pak rupee,” he claimed.
Talking about the trade relations with Russia, Mr Dawood said Pakistan’s exports to Russia and the countries bordering it (central Asia) and others required immediate attention and growth. “So we need to open this trade. And that is why we are going there,” he said, adding that Russia wanted to work in Pakistan in the fields of laying pipelines, constructions etc.
As for exports, he said the textile exports would reach Rs21 billion target in FY 2021-22 ending on June 30. The next year’s textile exports target is Rs27 billion. But the country should diversify its exports since its products range is squeezed. “Our major export destinations are Europe, North America (especially the USA) and China. But our range of products needs to be increased. And I think, our engineering and healthcare-related goods can be added in the list of exports,” he said.
He admitted skyrocketing prices and their adverse impact on the common people. “I agree with you on this issue. But this issue will persist due to imports of oil, raw material, machinery and other goods,” Mr Dawood said.