Pakistan Links Resumption of India Trade to Progress on Kashmir

Pakistan Links Resumption of India Trade to Progress on Kashmir

Pakistan said on Thursday any resumption of trade with India is linked to the resumption of autonomy for the disputed region of Kashmir, underscoring the political difficulties of any detente between the long-time rivals.

The decision by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet reversed by a move by the government economic committee to import cotton and sugar from India, Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed said. Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic relations and suspended bilateral trade with India in August 2019 after New Delhi revoked the autonomy given to its part of the disputed territory.

Resuming trade is seen as an important sign of warming ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors after they surprised the world last month with a rare joint commitment to respect a 2003 cease-fire agreement along a disputed border that has seen wars and regular gunfire. That statement marked a milestone in secret talks brokered by the United Arab Emirates, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.

But opposition parties and analysts in Pakistan have criticized the push to resume imports -- a move aimed at addressing shortages and stabilizing prices in the country -- as a compromise on Kashmir.

In recent weeks top political and military officials from both countries have called for an easing of tensions. Last month Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa asked India “to bury the past and move forward” while saying the military was ready to enter talks to resolve “all our outstanding issues.” The comments came a day after Khan called for a resolution on Kashmir, which he described as “the one issue that holds us back.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sent a tweet wishing Khan well after he was diagnosed with Covid-19.

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