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Federal cabinet rejects importing sugar, cotton from India

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet today (Thursday) turned down deferred the Economic Coordination Committee’s (ECC) decision to import sugar and cotton from India through land and sea routes.

The decision has been deferred until India reinstates Article 370 of its Constitution, which guaranteed a semi-autonomous status for Indian-occupied Kashmir. “Today Cabinet stated clearly NO trade with India,” Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari tweeted.

She said Prime Minister Imran Khan had made it clear that “there can be no normalisation of relations with India until they reverse their illegal actions” regarding occupied Kashmir taken on Aug 5, 2019.

Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the session of the federal cabinet via video link from his residence in Banigala. The meeting reviewed 22-point agenda and the decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC).

The cabinet discussed the overall political and economic situation of the country. The premier was also briefed over the coronavirus vaccination process.

Islamabad suspended trade and diplomatic ties with India in 2019 after New Delhi revoked the special status of the occupied Kashmir. Both countries withdrew their ambassadors and consular staff were expelled or withdrawn.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had allowed limited imports of sugar, cotton, and wheat from India, signalling a further thaw in relations between the two countries.

The of the federal cabinet has allowed the private sector to import 0.5 million tonnes of white sugar from India, said Finance Minister Hammad Azhar, adding that the government will also import cotton from India starting from end-June this year.

A statement by the Finance Division said the ECC has allowed the commercial import of white sugar from India up to 500,000 metric tonnes till June. It said the decision would be time and cost effective and would also stabilize the prices of sugar in the domestic markets.

The minister said sugar trade was being re-opened with India this year because of the difference in prices in the neighbouring country. He said the government estimated a difference of 15-20 percent in sugar prices in India as compared to Pakistan.

Hammad Azhar said it has also been decided to import five hundred thousand tonnes of sugar from India to improve the supply situation and to provide direct benefit to the common man.

Keeping in view the demand of Cotton, the Finance Minister said the ECC on the proposal of Ministry of Commerce has accorded approval for the import of cotton from India by the end of June. He said there was a high demand as Pakistan’s textile exports had increased but last year’s cotton crop was not good.