India raises customs duty on goods from Pakistan to 200 per cent after Kashmir attack which killed 44

Adam Forrest

India has increased customs duty on all goods coming from Pakistan to 200 per cent in response to a suicide bomb attack in Kashmir which left at least 44 people dead.

Tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad have risen sharply since a militant in the Indian-administered region rammed a car laden with explosives into a convoy of military vehicles in Pulwama, killing dozens of soldiers and leaving dozens more seriously injured.

The Indian government has accused Pakistan of having a “direct hand” in the bombing, which was claimed by Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which is based in the country.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi threatened to give his neighbouring country “a jaw breaking reply”.

His finance minister Arun Jaitley subsequently announced on Twitter that India had stripped “most favoured nation” (MFN) status from Pakistan and had raised basic customs duty on Pakistani goods “with immediate effect”.

Mr Jaitley later told reporters: “The ministry of external affairs will initiate all possible steps, and I am here referring to all possible diplomatic steps, which have to be taken to ensure the complete isolation from the international community of Pakistan.”

The two main goods imported from Pakistan are fruits and cement, according to The Times of India. Prior to the new 200 per cent tariff, customs duty on various fruits ranged between 30 and 50 per cent, while the duty on cement was 7.5 per cent, the newspaper reported.

Annual bilateral trade between the two countries is thought to be around $2bn (£1.55bn).

Following the attack, the White House urged Pakistan “to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil”.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but has long been a disputed territory claimed fully by both countries. In recent years, younger Kashmiris have openly supported rebels advocating to break away from India.

Anti-Pakistan protests were held in Indian cities, including Mumbai, in the aftermath of the attack.

Thousands of mourners across India attended funerals and vigils the soldiers who were killed in Pulwama. TV stations showed coffins wrapped in Indian flags being carried by thousands of people across their hometowns.

In 2001, an attack on its parliament building prompted India to mobilise the military along the border with Pakistan in a standoff that lasted a year.

Additional reporting by agencies