ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Thursday said that there was no proposal under consideration currently to allow import of vegetables from India, amid growing calls for opening trade routes with the neighbouring country as prices of vegetables and fruits have spiked due to the devastating floods.
“We are in touch with countries in the broader region to facilitate the earliest import of vegetables in the country,” FO spokesman Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said in a press briefing in Islamabad.
His comments come as several business chambers have been urging the Shehbaz Sharif government to import essential items like onion and tomato from neighbouring India for the sake of consumers.
The idea to import edible goods from India was first floated by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Monday in the wake of soaring prices of the vegetables.
However, Ismail said on Wednesday that the government will consult coalition partners and key stakeholders on importing food items from India, amid criticism from the Opposition over the plan in the wake of strained ties with New Delhi over the Kashmir issue.
On Thursday, Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Atif Munir requested the government to act swiftly to retain the vegetable supply chain.
“Trade with the neighbouring countries, especially India is vital to reduce transportation charges and that will help provide vegetables and fruits to consumers here at cheap rates,” he said.
Lahore Market Committee Secretary Shehzad Cheema said the government should take the decision to import vegetables and fruits from India as it appears to be the need of the hour to provide relief to consumers here.
He said import of vegetables from Iran via Taftan border (Balochistan) was not viable as the Iranian government had increased taxes on its imports and exports.
Tehreek-i-Istaqlal president Rehmat Khan Wardag also voiced for open trade with India for the sake of Pakistanis benefits.
“The government should use all avenues to provide relief to the consumers as tomato and onion prices have crossed Rs400 per kg. Vegetables and fruit supplies in the shortest time are possible only from neighbouring countries like India,” the veteran politician said in a statement on Thursday.
“As the government has already decided to open Iran and Afghan borders, it should also allow opening of Wagah border for importing kitchen items from India to bring down vegetables’ prices immediately,” he added.
Finance Minister Ismail said on Wednesday that more than one international agency has approached the government to allow them to bring food items from India through the land border of Wagah.
“The government will take the decision to allow imports or not based on the supply shortage position, after consulting its coalition partners and key stakeholders,” he said.
The nine-party coalition government is currently looking into all options, including allowing vegetable imports from India, to alleviate the suffering of the millions of people affected by the floods.
Pakistan has already allowed the trade of pharmaceutical products and surgical instruments with India.
Relations between India and Pakistan have often been strained over the Kashmir issue and cross-border militancy emanating from Pakistan.
However, the ties between the two countries nosedived after India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the State into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.
India’s decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy. Trade ties between Pakistan and India have largely been frozen since then. — (PTI)