Yes, cheese, that is, the milk product beloved by the northern part of the subcontinent in its ‘paneer’, or cottage cheese, form.
Tewari suggested that India could send cheese to Pakistan after it was reported that the latter is considering
cutting cheese imports
+ , among others, to reduce the spike in imports that Reuters news agency reported has led to a shortage of dollars in Pakistan’s economy, putting pressure on the local currency and dwindling foreign currency reserves.
“If Pakistan army has indeed reached out to India as they claim & NDA/ BJP Govt does not confirm or deny it we can consider reciprocating with Cheese (paneer) across the Wagah,” said Tewari.
The Congress leader was also referring to a report in The New York Times (NYT) from last week, which cited western diplomats and a senior Pakistani official saying that the country’s “powerful military has quietly reached out to its arch-rival India about resuming peace talks, but the response was tepid.” A key objective for Pakistan in reaching out to India is to open barriers to trade between the countries, which would give Pakistan more access to regional markets, said NYT.
Cheaper cheese could definitely be part of that trade agreement.
Pakistani economic advisors last week discussed banning imports of luxury cars, smartphones and cheese in a wide-ranging strategy session on how to avoid seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a senior government advisor said, reported news agency Reuters on Sunday. Radical measures to tackle Pakistan’s ballooning current account deficit were discussed by the newly formed Economic Advisory Council (EAC) headed by new Pakistan PM Imran Khan.
Ashfaque Hasan Khan, a university professor who is one of more than a dozen EAC members, told Reuters that during Thursday’s meeting, the focus was on outside-the-box ideas that would help curb imports. One of those ideas was stopping cheese imports.
“You see how much cheese is coming in this country from abroad. Market is full of imported cheese. Does this country, which doesn’t have dollars, deserve this, that it is importing cheese?” said Professor Khan.
Last year, the PML N) government in Pakistan hiked tariffs by up to 50 percent on 240 imported items, including cheese and high-horsepower cars, and imposed regulatory duties on dozens of new imports. But no outright import bans were issued.
The other two out-of-the-box ideas discussed at the EAC meeting were banning imports of luxury cars and smartphones.
Pakistan’s current account deficit widened by 43 percent to $18 billion in the year ended June 30, hit by a jump in oil prices. Pakistan imports about 80 percent of its oil needs.
To ease current account pressures, Pakistan’s central bank has devalued the rupee four times since December, while interest rates have been hiked three times this year, said Reuters.
In July, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned that any potential IMF bailout for Pakistan’s new government should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders.
In an interview with CNBC television, Pompeo said the US looked forward to engagement with the new Pakistan government but said there was “no rationale” for a bailout that pays off Chinese loans to Pakistan.
“Make no mistake. We will be watching what the IMF does,” Pompeo said, as quoted by Reuters.
“There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars and associated with that American dollars that are part of the IMF funding, for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself,” said Pompeo said.