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Transit barriers: Afghan-India trade ties remain at lowest level

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By Akhtar M. Nikzad: AT-Indian industrialists and exporters are deeply interested to have trade ties with Afghanistan but they said the trade ties between Kabul and New Delhi have been slow due to some restriction imposed by Pakistan. They say that Afghan traders have the transit right to export their products through Pakistan to India easily—based on the transit trade agreement signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan (APTTA)—but Pakistan does not allow Indian traders to export their goods through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

A number of Indian industrialists and traders in an interview with Afghanistan Times said that Afghanistan is a good market to explore and sell their products as well as for exporting products to Central Asia via Afghan routes, but Pakistan was not allowing them to be part of the transit trade.

Regarding reason behind the restrictions imposed by Pakistani authorities which has restricted growth of Afghan-India commercial ties, they said that Afghanistan has signed the APTTA with Pakistan which allows Afghanistan to use Pakistan’s soil for export of goods to India but according to the same agreement, Pakistan does not permit Indian products to be exported to Afghanistan. The second reason they counted was Afghanistan’s absence from the membership list of the World Tread Organization.

Hemant Kumar, an Indian industrialist, said the transit-related restrictions imposed by Pakistan had affected trade ties between New Delhi and Kabul. He said the Afghan government should review the APTTA and remove the transit bans so Indian businessmen could export products to Afghanistan.

“On the other hand Pakistan is trying to flood Afghanistan with its own made products. Islamabad is not allowing Indians to compete with them,” he said.

He went on saying that so far more than 50 percent of Pakistani products are exported to Afghanistan without maintaining the international standards and criteria. Kumar added that if Indian products find way to Afghanistan through Pakistani transit routes then it would hurt Pakistan’s export and pave way for competition.

“Therefore, Indian businessmen opted for another option to expand trade ties with Afghanistan being sick of Pakistan imposed bans. We are going use Iranian ports and roads to introduce our products in the Afghan markets, but it will take some time and will be a bit expensive,” he underlined.

Sanjay Yerunar, General Manager of the International Division of Aristo Pharmaceutical Pvt .Ltd, said that whoever exports products to Afghanistan via Iran, it would take two months, but the Indian government is tired of Pakistan’s behavior and wants to invest over $86 million in Iran’s Chabahar Port to improve the bilateral trade ties between Afghanistan and India.

He said that commercial activities through Chabahar Port would strengthen the Afghan-India bilateral trade ties.

Regarding the transit challenges in Pakistan, the Indian deputy minister of Commerce and Industries, Mutasil Kumaki, said that Islamabad not only restricts export of Indian goods but also created challenges for Afghan businessmen despite APTTA.

He said that Pakistan created transit-related problems especially when Afghan businessmen want to export fresh fruits and other agricultural products to Pakistan or India. “The Indian and Afghan governments are pondering over solutions to remove the ban or to search alternatives.”

He said the Afghan government is paying attention to Chabahar Port to improve trade with India as New Delhi decided to invest around $100 million in the port.

He said the Afghan traders would accelerate exportations and importations of goods to and from India trade activities through Chabahar Port.

According to reports, annually Afghanistan export worth $102 million products to India and import $136 worth goods. The trade volume could jump if Pakistan allowed Indian businessmen to export and import products to and from Afghanistan.