Pakistan’s flip-flop on India reflects divisions within Imran Khan govt

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When the new Finance Minister of Pakistan Hammad Azhar announced a move to partially restore trade ties with India on Wednesday, is seen in the context of a gradual thawing in bilateral ties were boosted by both parties again adhering to the truce (Loc).

 imran-khan

imran-khan

But the reaction on the other side of the border was fast – in a few hours, with many, including the Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari, by saying the decision by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet did not have the support of the entire cabinet, and the part of the electronic media was inside Arms about concessions made by Islamabad without reciprocal size from the Indian side.

What should have been a simple validation on ECC decision at a cabinet meeting on Thursday instead turned into a larger debate about the need to review the bilateral relationship with India, especially the changes made by the Special Status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. According to the buzz in Islamabad , Many of these debates were driven by Hawkish elements in Imran Khan’s government, including the Minister of Home Affairs Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

When dust has settled,

a new message has emerged from Islamabad after the second meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday to review relations with India – there is no bilateral trade relationship or normalize its bond. Decision of 2019 in Jammu and Kashmir.

People in saying new messaging reflects the division in Imran Khan’s government about contacts behind the scenes between India and Pakistan which lead to the rise of a 2003 weapon ceasefire on Loc on February 25. Contact – Kala, was being driven by Pakistan’s side by the head of the army of Qamar Bajwa and Moeed Yusuf, a special adviser to the Prime Minister about national security.

According to the insider,

even Qureshi was not in the loop on the contact which led to the announcement of the ceasefire in February and this was reflected in his Hawkish speech on the Islamic security dialogue last month. In a marked contrast, Bajwa spoke on the same event about the need to “bury the past and move forward”, while Khan talked about India took the first step to increase bilateral bond by overcoming Kashmir, the only problem that blocked a better relationship.

It also appeared that ECC cleaned the problem of importing cotton and sugar from India because formal proposals came from the Ministry of Commerce, led by the Prime Minister. However, Khan as prime minister shot down the same proposal when discussed by the cabinet the next day.

Mehmal Sarfraz, a journalist based in Lahore who closely tracked India-Pakistani relations, linked Imbroglio to the Government Imran Khan to move too quickly on trade problems with India.

“I think the government announced a decision too fast. Also, should not be an unilateral concession from Pakistan when India has not taken reciprocity steps,” Sarfraz said.

Pakistani trade bonds suspended unilaterally with India in August 2019 as part of the package measures aimed at replying to the change in the specific status of Jammu and Kashmir. These steps include the decision not to post a new high Commissioner in New Delhi and to expel Indian envoys in Islamabad.

Baqir Sajjad Syed,

a journalist based in Islamabad with a Fajar newspaper, described the decision of the Pakistani government as “curious”. Syed noted that Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser to the Prime Minister for Trade and Investment, tweeted that Khan allow imports of cotton to “reduce the pressure on the thread”, he said the move to resume trade with India “was a common knowledge before it happened, and not that someone caught Surprised “.

“The only explanation that comes to mind is that there is a detrimental reaction in several media segments, and second, some hawkish elements in the cabinet apply to the prime minister to delay the ratification [trade bond with India]. Remember, it has not been rejected,” said Syed.

People agree with this view, say Khan and Bajwa need more time to build public opinion for better bond with India while handling objections from more hawkish elements.

For old Pakistani hands on the Indian side, flip-flop in trade is not fully new.

“I remember when I was the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in 1997, a team of PhD Chamber of Commerce and the industry came to Pakistan and signed an agreement with the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The next day, Lahore Chamber issued a statement that there was no trade with India Kashmir’s problem was completed, “said Sharat Sabharwal, who served as an Indian envoy at Islamabad during 2009-13.

Sabharwal said the post of high commissioners in both capitals, easing of travel restrictions and trade continued was a clear way to be built on the announcement of the Loc weapons ceasefire.

“Obviously there are opposition from several ministers in the Imran Khan cabinet, such as Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Shireen Mazari. Some in the Pakistani army are also uncomfortable about that step,” he said.

“The second factor is the lobby with strong commercial interest, which sometimes envelcomes their demands in Garb problems such as Kashmir. There is a very strong sugar lobby in Pakistan and some manufacturers will be discouraged if prices fall [because of importers cheaper than India],” said Sabharwal.

Experts now believe the hardline position taken by Pakistan,

by connecting normalization of bilateral relations with the issue of Kashmir and changes to Jammu and Kashmir, can complicate the newly born movement to increase bonds.

“The Modi government certainly cannot review the decision in Kashmir,” Sabharwal said.

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