New Delhi: India never halted trade relations with Pakistan, India’s deputy high commissioner to Pakistan Suresh Kumar reportedly said Friday while addressing the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). Kumar added that New Delhi “always wants better relations” with Islamabad because “we cannot change our geography”.
“We want to move towards normal relations with Pakistan. We also didn’t stop trade with Pakistan, as it was Pakistan that did it. It would be better to see how we can change our problems and situations,” he was quoted as saying in a report by Dawn.
Diplomacy in today’s day and age revolves around tourism, trade and technology since “money speaks its own language”, he added.
New Delhi had revoked Pakistan’s most-favoured-nation (MFN) status and imposed a 200 per cent tariff on all imports from Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in 2019, but did not ban either exports to or imports from the neighbouring country.
Islamabad, on the other hand, expelled Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and suspended trade with India following the abrogation of article 370 in August 2019. It was only in May 2020 that Pakistan lifted the ban on import of medicines and raw material from India in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bilateral trade between the two countries stood at $830.58 million in FY 2019-20. Though it dipped to $329.26 million in FY 2020-21, India and Pakistan recorded a total trade of $1.35 billion between April and December 2022.
Also Read: Ties with China ‘complex’ despite talks, Pakistan ‘vilifying India’: MEA annual report
‘Huge number’ of visas being issued
Adding that the number of visas issued to Pakistanis declined during the pandemic, Kumar said in his address at the LCCI Friday that the Indian mission in Islamabad is now issuing 30,000 visas to Pakistanis every year, which he said was “a huge number”.
Kumar also emphasised that India was on course to become one of the largest economies in the world. “Our service sector has grown enormously, and now we are focusing on manufacturing, like automobile and electronics manufacturing,” he said.
Meanwhile, LCCI president Kashif Anwar said it was ‘generally thought’ that improving economic ties between India and Pakistan was a complex issue that required addressing a range of political, economic, and social factors.
“But we are of the view that the foremost step that could be taken to improve economic relations between India and Pakistan is to normalise trade relations. This would bring substantial economic benefits evenly to both the countries,” he was quoted as saying.
(This is an updated version of the report)
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
Also Read: Why India’s unlikely to accept any interim arbitration decision on Indus Waters Treaty projects