Pakistan Cabinet Rejects Proposal to Lift Ban on Sugar, Cotton Imports from India


Pakistan Cabinet on Thursday rejected the country’s Economic Coordination Council’s (ECC) proposal to lift a nearly two-year old ban on sugar and cotton imports from India. Pakistan Finance Minister Hammad Azhar had on Wednesday announced the ECC, a top decision-making body, has allowed the private sector to import 0.5 million tonnes of white sugar as Islamabad tries to keep soaring domestic prices in check.

However, a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday rejected the ECC proposal to import cotton yarn and sugar from India, Geo TV reported, citing sources. There was no official word on the decision of the Cabinet.

Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Khans close aide and Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that all ECC decisions have to be approved by Cabinet and only then they can be seen as “approved” by the government.

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 Jammu and Kashmir.

India is the world’s biggest producer of cotton and the second biggest sugar producer. Exports to its neighbour will reduce surpluses that are weighing on its local markets, while it would have helped Pakistan to lower soaring sugar prices ahead of Ramadan.

In May 2020, Pakistan had lifted the ban on import of medicines and raw material of essential drugs from India amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in Pakistan. Subsequent attacks, including one on an Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.

The ties strained further after India’s war planes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack in 2019 in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed. India’s move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August, 2019 angered Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties with India and expelled the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. Pakistan also snapped all air and land links with India and suspended trade and railway services.