Any hope of gradually improving the already low volume of trade between India and Pakistan was completely shattered in 2019, with India imposing 200 per cent customs duty on Pakistani imports in February and Islamabad suspending bilateral trade with Delhi in August. Those who were ready to go through all it takes to trade across the border directly no longer had the option to trade formally. And commodities that used to be traded directly started taking indirect routes.
Take dry dates, for example. Pakistan is the source of 99 per cent of the dry dates imported by India. Nearly 500 traders who sourced dry dates from Pakistan and 1,000 women who earned a living by hand-cutting the dates have gone out of business, and prices of the ‘poor man’s dry fruit’ have gone up by almost 300 per cent. The UAE supplied no dry dates to India in 2018, but its supplies witnessed a progressive increase every month in 2019. The same period saw successive month-on-month increases in the value of dry dates Pakistan exported to the UAE. Indeed, Dubai has been an ‘open secret’ destination for routing goods between India and Pakistan.