Some things never change. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, for example, has gone through several phases from being a fierce opposition leader to Pakistan’s Prime Minister to being an opposition leader once again. What however remains consistent is his humiliatingly senseless remarks- Imran Khan didn’t make much sense when he was an Opposition Leader. He didn’t make any sense when he became the Prime Minister. And he doesn’t make any sense now as an embattled Opposition leader.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and former Prime Minister Imran Khan has come up with a bizarre proposal- let’s ban Indian goods. He asked the “imported government” run by Shehbaz Sharif to break all ties with India and boycott Indian goods over the comments made against Prophet Mohammed recently.
Imran Khan riding on anti-India plank again
For Imran Khan, life has come full circle. When Nawaz Sharif was in power as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Khan used to instigate populist sentiment by riding on the anti-India plank. In a country like Pakistan, you can always play up the anti-India radicalism prevalent amongst the country’s right-wing clergy and hot-headed military. This is what Khan seems to be doing all over again since he has been thrown out of power.
This is why the Pakistani Prime Minister also brought up the issue of former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s recent remarks about Prophet Mohammed. Khan, in fact, went as far as requesting the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take strong action against India. The former Pakistan PM lamented that India had thus far been allowed to get away with its “Islamophobic policies”.
Why switching off trade will be a disaster for Islamabad?
It is easy to suddenly talk about banning imports from India. It is that much easier when you are sitting in the opposition.
However, Pakistan’s ground realities are such that it cannot afford to ban import of Indian goods. At the end of the day, Pakistan is dependent on the supply of cotton from India. It also imports sugar from India during times of temporary shortfalls and is presently looking to purchase Indian wheat also in the backdrop of rising foodgrain prices in the global market.
And yes, medicines. Pakistan also needs Indian medicines. Pakistan is almost entirely dependent on India for supply of critical medicines like anti-rabies and anti-venom doses. In 2019, it was reported that Pakistan had imported anti-rabies and anti-venom vaccines worth Rs. 256 crores from India within a period of just 16 months. There is a huge mismatch between Pakistan’s manufacturing capabilities and the country’s demands for these medicines. It is the Indian supplies that fill in the gap.
So, if authorities of Pakistan were to suddenly pull the plug on Indian imports, then Pakistan itself might die of rabies.
Imran Khan’s hypocrisy on trade
Today, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan is making big and bold remarks about imports from India. However, there was a time when Khan had to himself agree to the resumption of bilateral trade ties with New Delhi. Till April 2021, Pakistan had maintained a nearly two-year ban on cotton and sugar imports from India.
Pakistan had to lift the trade restrictions as they had caused raw material shortages in Pakistan’s textiles sector. Similarly, Khan had to allow sugar imports from India in order to bring down its mounting prices. Ultimately, Khan had to give up on his saber-rattling against India following the abrogation of Article 370 by India.
Today, Khan may say anything but in reality, even he understands the drastic consequences of a disastrous move like banning imports from India.