India Standpoint over Pak-Afghan Transit trade
The Indian Officials are not pleased over Pakistan’s approach towards hosting the bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan. At a weekly briefing spokesperson of India ministry of external affairs, Anurag Srivastava called out Pakistan for not complying with the rules set forth under Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APPTA).
“Let us be clear on this, Pakistan is not allowing Afghan trucks to carry Afghan goods and is seeking monopolistic transport practices,” he said. He further added that Pakistan fails to allow access of products from India and other countries to Afghanistan and is enforcing the dynamics of a captive market.
Pakistan’s take on the issue
Moreover, Pakistan’s foreign office declared to resume exports to India from July 15. FO stated that the facilitation is carried out as promised under APTTA. The initiative restored bilateral trade on Afghanistan’s request.
Additionally, Pakistan’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq said that trade should be the talking point of the Pak-afghan relationship. He expressed high hopes in bilateral trade to push the two regions towards prosperity. “We are moving ahead with promoting economic activity on both sides of the border, he said.
Afghanistan’s take on the issue
Furthermore, the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Atif Mashal has reciprocated in a similar manner to the situation. He remarked that the Political issues must not come in the way of commerce between both countries.
He also invited Pakistani adviser to the prime minister on commerce, Abdul Razak Dawood, to visit Kabul in July or August for a follow up on talks regarding bilateral trade and transit issues.
Update on opened routes
Similarly, Pakistan has made open five key routes with Afghanistan along with Wagah border. Reopened routes include Torkham in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Chaman in southwest Balochistan province, Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan tribal district, Angor Adda in South Waziristan tribal district and Kharlachi in Kurram tribal district.
Tri-lateral cooperation under CEPAC
In September 2019, China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue held in Islamabad agreed for trilateral cooperation under CEPAC, belt road initiative (BRI). Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of the Pakistani Senate’s standing committee on foreign affairs said that Afghanistan is carrying exports via Gwadar since January 2020.
“Gwadar port is the centerpiece of CPEC. It aids in transporting to Afghanistan. Which is a shorter route than the Karachi port,” he added. For Afghanistan, the first shipment carrying containers arrived at Gwadar port on Jan 14,202. Approvals for importing a bulk cargo of wheat, sugar, and fertilizers were given in April.
Issues and Challenges
Afghan Ambassador Mishaal Khan lauded Pakistan over establishing transit ties.
“We must extend support to each other for the revival of commerce and connectivity in Central and South Asia that will surely benefit people in the region,” he said. In a conference organized by USAID – Pakistan Regional Economic Integration Activity (PREIA) in collaboration with the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), traders and exporters on both ends have expressed concern over decreasing trade volume.
Moreover, they attributed the decline to the complex regulatory procedures, inadequate administrative measures, and strict policies. Moreover, parties on both ends discussed removing the bottlenecks to ease trade.
India’s export through Pakistan’s transit routes is not just an issue of commerce. The concerns over national security and Pakistan-china relationship also plays a decisive role. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan look forward to working under BRI. India does not seem to have to negotiate power unless backed by Afghanistan.