Pakistan’s trade flip-flop evokes conflict between the Koreas

Pakistan’s decision to reimpose trade curbs on India less than a day after lifting a ban on them is evocative of what’s been playing out in the Koreas, two other nations that were once a single country but are now arch-enemies.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday decided to reinstate a ban on cotton and sugar imports from India just about 24 hours after OKing them. Khan said the trade wouldn’t resume until India gave autonomy to the disputed region of Kashmir.

The worsening relationship between the neighbors is reflected in data that shows the value of shipments between India and Pakistan falling last year to $285 million from about $1.3 billion the year before. Trade between the neighbors now accounts for only 0.1% of India’s total, and appears headed where the two Koreas are today, commerce-wise.


Trade between those countries dwindled to $4 million last year from $2.7 billion in 2015, according to South Korea’s statistics office. The drop followed a 2016 decision to shut down a jointly run industrial complex, with sanctions now blocking most business between the two.

Last year, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border that was set up by Seoul in 2018 as a gesture of rapprochement. The two Koreas are technically still at war because they have no peace treaty, although fighting stopped almost 70 years ago.

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