Pakistan unilaterally suspended trade with India in August 2019 after the Narendra Modi government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s temporary special status. Imran Khan’s government accused New Delhi of violating all agreements signed between the two nuclear powers since 1948.
Pakistan has decided to resume trade with India after a break since August 2019. According to decision approved by Pakistan’s Cabinet Economic Coordination Committee, Pakistani traders will import cotton, yarn and sugar from India.
Sources said that the private sector is allowed to import half a million tonnes of white sugar from India and cotton will be imported via land routes until 30 June 2021 to provide relief to the textile industry. Pakistan has to import cheaper Indian cotton to meet the shortfall.
The development marks the resumption of trade between the two archrivals after a suspension of 20 months against the backdrop of a series of confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan had ceased to trade and downgraded the diplomatic ties with India in August 2019 after New Delhi revoked autonomy for the former state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The first hint that trade might recommence came on 25 February when both countries pledged to respect a 2003 cease-fire agreement along the Line of Control in Kashmir. The two countries’ armies also held a meeting to review the decision for a cease-fire along the border last week. The two sides have repeatedly accused one another of violating the 2003 agreement in recent years.
Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sent good wishes to his Pakistan counterpart, Imran Khan, on Pakistan’s National Day, which marked the resumption of communication at the highest level.
“As a neighbouring country, India desires cordial relations with the people of Pakistan. For this, an environment of trust, devoid of terror and hostility, is imperative,” Modi said in a letter addressed to his Pakistan counterpart.
Imran Khan wrote back on Tuesday to Narendra Modi and said that “an enabling environment” should be created for “result-oriented dialogue”.
Earlier this month, several media reported that the United Arab Emirates is responsible for broking the talks which led to last month’s surprise joint statement by India and Pakistan.
The dispute over Jammu and Kashmir has been going on since 1947. New Delhi claims sovereignty over the entirety of the Jammu and Kashmir region, currently divided by the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan.
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, was in Madrid on Wednesday for a meeting with his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), to discuss their countries’ joint strategy for an upcoming summit on the European Union’s coronavirus recovery fund.
Spain and Italy, the two European countries to be hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, are joining forces against the so-called “frugal” countries – Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark – which oppose the idea of a €750 billion fund, of which €500 billion would be non-recoverable grants and the rest made up of loans.
Sánchez and Conte have shared interests, as their countries stand to benefit the most from the fund, according to Italian and Spanish sources who added that Germany and France back this position as well.
“This time Italy, Spain, France and Germany are clearly in sync. We all support the European Commission’s proposal,” said Spanish sources.
Con el encuentro mantenido hoy con @GiuseppeConteIT relanzamos las relaciones entre España e Italia. Coincidimos en que la buena sintonía que mantienen nuestros países debe trasladarse también al ámbito político. Esperamos celebrar en este 2020 una nueva Cumbre ítalo-española. pic.twitter.com/vnBUxLBjls
“With the meeting held today with @GiuseppeConteIT we are relaunching relations between Spain and Italy. We agree that the good understanding between our countries must be taken to the political arena. We hope to hold a new Italian-Spanish summit in 2020,” tweeted Spain’s Sánchez on Wednesday.
Conte and Sánchez will be traveling separately in the coming days to the Netherlands and Germany, and the Spanish leader is also planning a stop in Sweden, whose government wants to replace some of the EU fund grants with loans, according to Spanish sources. The Spanish and Italian PMs are hoping to arrive at the July 17-18 summit in Brussels with a strong negotiated position that will leave little room for resistance from the “Frugal Four.”
Wednesday’s meeting also served to reinforce bilateral ties that had been weak for years. The last time that the leaders of both countries had come together was in 2014, when then-prime ministers Enrico Letta and Mariano Rajoy met in Rome.
Maqsooda Bibi, 62, did not know the house she had lived in all her life would be demolished, forcing her whole family to become homeless. But on Monday, Pakistan’s supreme court backed the Sindh government in bulldozing her home and hundreds of others, legalising the eviction of thousands who live along narrow waterways – nullahs – that crisscross Karachi.
The verdict came as Bibi and hundreds of others held a protest outside the court. “We hoped that the court would ask the government not to make us homeless, but it did the opposite. Our children also protested on Sunday and urged the supreme court to stop demolition. It seems no one here cares for the future of the poor.”
At least 8,000 houses are being knocked down along the nullahs. The work, which began in February, is in response to the 2020 Karachi floods that saw choked up nullahs overflow and swamp the city. Improvements to Karachi’s water and sewage systems are being financed by the World Bank.
As people watched their homes being turned into rubble, civil society organisations approached the court to try to stop the evictions. They said the houses were not to blame for blocking the waterways.
But on Monday the supreme court rejected the petition.
While dozens of people told the Guardian they were renting their homes, the court said any leasing of land along the nullahs was illegal. Activists and writers have termed the decision “unjust”. Writer Fatima Bhutto, of the Bhutto political dynasty, tweeted: “The supreme court’s decision is a tragedy.”
In an editorial, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily, Dawn, said: “The demolition of houses situated within nine metres on either side of the Gujjar and Orangi nullahs will continue. When this exercise is completed (before this year’s monsoon, according to the plan), at least 100,000 people would perhaps have been rendered homeless. As many as 21,000 children would be out of school and living under the open sky.”
Bibi’s house was her family’s home for five decades. She shared it with four daughters and three sons-in-law. “We all started living on the lawn after they demolished our house but they will snatch the lawn now. At first, they took our shelter, now they will take our land,” she says.
Muhammad Shahid is a heart patient whose house was bulldozed a month ago. He expected justice from the court.He was at home when his house was bulldozed at around 11am one morning.
“We are helpless. Where should we go? We can’t die or live. I had my angiography done and now I can’t work. My children aren’t educated enough. My wife had a paralysis attack,” says Shahid. He says that even he has not got the 90,000 Pakistani rupees (£410) promised by the government.
Muhammad Aslam did receive some compensation for the loss of his house. But he says it is not enough. He says: “I want to return the amount because it is of no use for four families.” He lives with 28 others in one room and a tent after his two-storey house was bulldozed. “We are troubled in all ways, there is no gas or electricity or even sanitation. This isn’t living,” says Aslam.
Architect and urban planner Arif Hasan says the government had no “proper plan”. “They are not doing it merely to stop the flood but to make long roads along the nullahsconnecting the Lyari expressway with the northern bypass, displace poor and benefit the rich.” He says the World Bank should denounce the Sindh government, as forced evictions are against the bank’s policies.
Muhammad Abid Asghar was one of the first to lose his home, on 2 February. With others, he established Gujjar Nala victims committee and, with activists of Karachi Bachao Tehreek (Save Karachi Movement), went to the Sindh high court.
After chalking slogans against the demolitions on walls around the city, the activists say they were called by the World Bank team for a meeting in April.
“We had believed the bank was funding the evictions, but the World Bank denied it. They assured us that no leased houses would be bulldozed.”
Sindh minister for information, Nasir Hussain Shah, also says the World Bank is not linked to the evictions. “The government will help residents in rehabilitation,” he says, adding that “not more than 5%” of residents were against the demolition works.
The World Bank did not respond to a request for comment.
The Chinese mission to the EU denounced a Nato statement that declared Beijing a “security challenge,” saying China is actually a force for peace but will defend itself if threatened, AP reports. The Chinese news release said the Nato statement was a “slander on China’s peaceful development, a misjudgment of the international situation and (Nato’s) own role, and a continuation of the Cold War mentality and organisational political psychology.”