In­dia, Afghanistan plan­ning cargo ser­vice over Pak­istan

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In­dia and Afghanistan are likely to an­nounce an air cargo ser­vice to help in­crease trade that both say is stymied be­cause of their tense politi­cal re­la­tions with Pak­istan that lies be­tween them. Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani and In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi were meet­ing in the north­ern In­dian city of Am­rit­sar, a short dis­tance from the Pak­istan bor­der, for the Heart of Asia con­fer­ence aimed at sta­bil­is­ing Afghanistan.

Nu­clear-armed In­dia and Pak­istan have gone to war three times and re­main bit­ter foes while ties be­tween Pak­istan and Afghanistan have be­come strained de­spite their shared re­li­gious and cul­tural iden­ti­ties. Of­fi­cials say the fo­cus of the air cargo ser­vice is to im­prove land­locked Afghanistan’s con­nec­tiv­ity to key mar­kets abroad and boost the growth prospects of its fruit and car­pet in­dus­tries while it bat­tles a deadly Tal­iban in­sur­gency.

Afghanistan de­pends on the Pak­istani port of Karachi for its for­eign trade. It is al­lowed to send a limited amount of goods over­land through Pak­istan into In­dia, but im­ports from In­dia are not al­lowed along this route. Afghan di­rec­tor gen­eral for macro fis­cal poli­cies Khalid Payenda said the po­ten­tial for trade with In­dia, the largest mar­ket in the re­gion, was far greater than al­lowed by land and so the two coun­tries had de­cided to use the air route.

“That would be air cargo be­tween Afghanistan and In­dia. We have a lot of po­ten­tial for trade on both sides. On our side, it’s mostly fruit and dried fruit and po­ten­tially through In­dia to other places for prod­ucts like car­pets and oth­ers.” He said that a joint ven­ture in­volv­ing an Afghan and an In­dian cargo firm would be set up and that the two gov­ern­ments were work­ing to set up in­fra­struc­ture at Kabul and Delhi air­ports.

An In­dian gov­ern­ment source at­tend­ing the meet­ing in Am­rit­sar said air cargo route de­tails were still be­ing worked out and could in­clude Kan­da­har as a point of ori­gin for ship­ping fruit di­rectly to In­dia. In­dian for­eign min­istry of­fi­cial Gopal Baglay, who over­sees Afghanistan, Pak­istan and Iran, said sev­eral pro­pos­als were be­ing dis­cussed to im­prove Afghanistan’s trade and trans­port links. “There have been very many ideas on how to en­hance con­nec­tiv­ity, over­come cur­rent chal­lenges and also ex­pand the trade bas­ket,” he said.

Pak­istan’s top for­eign pol­icy ad­viser, Sar­taj Aziz, will be at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence to­day. Ties with In­dia have de­te­ri­o­rated fur­ther in re­cent months af­ter a se­ries of at­tacks on In­dian mil­i­tary bases in the dis­puted re­gion of Kash­mir, which New Delhi says have ei­ther been car­ried out by mil­i­tants sneak­ing in from Pak­istan or or­ches­trated by groups based there.

Pak­istan de­nies stok­ing vi­o­lence in Kash­mir and says In­dia must open talks on the fu­ture of the re­volt-torn Mus­lim ma­jor­ity re­gion. In­dian of­fi­cials said no talks with Pak­istan were sched­uled on the side­lines of the Am­rit­sar con­fer­ence. Afghanistan’s ties with Pak­istan have also be­come strained af­ter a se­ries of vi­o­lent at­tacks, sev­eral of them in the cap­i­tal Kabul, that it said showed Pak­istan had failed to rein in the mil­i­tant groups oper­at­ing from its soil.

“Un­less we take a col­lec­tive mea­sure to fight ter­ror­ism, to fight the breed­ing ground for ter­ror­ism, the safe sanc­tu­ary, we will not be able to bring peace and sta­bil­ity ei­ther to Afghanistan or to any­where else in the re­gion, in­clud­ing In­dia,” said Afghan am­bas­sador to In­dia Shaida M Ab­dali. Pak­istan says it is it­self a vic­tim of ter­ror­ism and says In­dia is us­ing its close ties with Afghanistan to stir trou­ble in its restive Baluchis­tan province. — Reuters

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