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Exclusive: Pak FM says will look at all available options on resuming trade with India

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Correspondent Anas Mallick in conversation with Pakistani Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on the sidelines of the United National General Assembly meeting.

 

WION: After the financial crisis, floods devastated Pakistan. Can Pakistan escape debt default? 

 

Ismail: We will be able to service all our debt and fulfil all our international obligations. Of course, things have become very tight, but we had good meetings today with the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and she has expressed her support for Pakistan. Yesterday we had an excellent meeting with the President of France, who is going to hold an international conference to help Pakistan. We are talking to our bilateral friends, donors, and multilateral agencies and I think Pakistan should be able to overcome this crisis easily.

 

WION: Is Pakistan in a debt trap? And can Pakistan get out of it? 

 

Ismail: No, not at all. Yes, we have considerable debt, but if compared with many other countries of the world, it’s quite low as a proportion of the GDP.

 

WION: Do you think Pakistan should resume trade with India? Both the Prime Ministers at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation endorsed transit and connectivity as important.

 

Ismail: I think because of floods in Pakistan and thus, shortage of necessary kitchen items like onion and tomato, and perhaps later on if we feel a shortage of cotton, because of our cotton crop in Sindh being washed away, I think it is important for Pakistan to look at all available options to import these things at reasonable prices.

 

WION: What’s the deal with Russia on oil and energy imports? Is Pakistan looking at it to bring supply and prices under control?

 

Ismail: During the previous government, Pakistan wrote a letter to the Russian government requesting oil supply but they were never replied to. But now I see that there is a slight change in the Russian position, and we are going to explore these options of importing LNG and other gas from Russia, including pipeline gas. Although that’s a long-term project it is something Russia has expressed an interest in.

 

WION: How much is political instability a factor in Pakistan’s current state of affairs, given that Pakistan has hardly or never seen a full 5 term government? Friendly countries from the gulf also have now begun putting conditions, is that not an uneasy sign of lack of trust?

 

Ismail: Friendly countries from the gulf have helped in getting the IMF programme going and have expressed a lot of sympathies and have also provided material help to fight the floods.

 

WION: Do you have a target to bring Pakistan financially on track? Can you quantify in years or months for the people to feel assured?

 

Ismail: The economy will come back on track, but the floods of course have affected it quite negatively, but we’ll be okay.

 

 

 

 

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