India hikes customs duty to 200 pc for Pak goods

New Delhi In its continued efforts to isolate Pakistan and squeeze its already stressed economy, India on Saturday announced an unprecedented 200 per cent hike in basic customs duty on all goods exported from Pakistan to India with immediate effect.

The announcement was made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley here. The decision follows the government move to withdraw Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status given to Pakistan in 1990s.

The Cabinet Committee on Security presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken the decision to withdraw the MFN status on Friday.

The 200 per cent basic customs high would impact USD 488.5 million worth of goods that Pakistan exports to India, sources said.

These steps are seen as attempt to build up pressure on Pakistan to act firmly against terror groups including Jaish-e-Mohammad operating from that country.

During last two days, India has been persuading extensive diplomatic offensive and trying to drive home the point to global community that the administration under new Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan needs to act against the terror groups.

“JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack. The organization and its leadership are located in Pakistan. LeT and other terror groups have welcomed the news of the attack. These groups are also based in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot claim that it is unaware of their presence and their activities,” MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar said on Friday dismissing Pakistan’s statement in which it had denied of its involvement in Pulwama attack.

“There are also other audio-visual and print material linking JeM to the terrorist attack,” Mr Kumar has said in reply to a question on Pakistan Foreign Secretary’s briefing rejecting Pakistan’s involvement in the dastardly attack that claimed 40 lives.

While the Modi government has sought to squeeze Pakistan’s already under stress economy, sources point out here that more than the religious sentiment and respecting the sentiments of Sikhs – minorities in both India and Pakistan – the “opening of the Kartarpur Corridor” was seen by the Imran Khan regime as an opportunity to slowly reduce trade barriers.

Authorities in Pakistan were hopeful that the Kartarpur Corridor would “encourage the cross-border movement of people and goods”. This was a point, which was understood well by foreign policy engine room in India and traders in Indian side of Punjab state as well.

“A timely reduction in the barriers that restrict the movement of people across the Line of Control could open up new economic opportunities. This has been in Imran Khan regime’s mind,” a source said.

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