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Prospects of Pak-Afghan Trade

Prospects of Pak-Afghan Trade

Afghanistan and Pakistan as neighboring countries, with around 2,600 km long border, rely on each other to a great extent; particularly, in the domain of their trade requirements. Afghanistan, being dominated by insecurity for more than four decades now, does not have strong economic system and requires to import most of its consumer goods from other countries. Pakistan stands as the ideal choice, because of its deep cultural and historical relations with Afghanistan, and also because it is the country that can provide sea-route to Afghanistan, which is a land-locked country. Currently, the pivotal role of Pakistan as the main part of the China’s grand Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) makes is even more appropriate choice for Afghanistan. And, fortunately, both the countries seem to have realized this fact and are working for better trade relations.
Currently, Afghanistan and Pakistan are having intense and frequent talks to revive and improve Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) which is due to expire in February this year.
Traders, exporters and relevant officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan have already identified and agreed to remove bottlenecks that were hampering bilateral and transit trade, including complicated regulations and procedures, strict policies and cumbersome goods’ clearing processes to further improve mutual trade and economic relations between the two countries. Through this agreement, Pakistan is looking to increase its share in the Afghan market by 60-65%. At the moment, Islamabad possesses 43% of the total imports in the neighboring country. The country’s exports tumbled from $2.6 billion in 2010-11 to $877 million, while the officials are striving to increase exports worth up to $1.2 billion in the current fiscal year to Afghanistan. During the first five months of the current year, the exports surged by 3.2%.
For Afghanistan on the other side, there is an immense opportunity to have access to transit trade through Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which has already been opened for the country. Gwadar can provide Afghanistan the cheapest trade route through the Indian Ocean, reaching to the Middle East, African and East Asian countries. Moreover, since Gwadar is at the heart of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Afghanistan is going to benefit to a great extent if it becomes part of it through APTTA.
However, for APTTA to enter into a new phase, it is vital that the authorities in both the countries must come together with honest and practical approach, which is in the economic interests of both the countries. Afghanistan, in this regard, must be more enthusiastic and must search ways to make its economy move on a path to self-sufficiency. After all, it has to come out of decades of war and instability, and needs to make a new beginning and strong trade with Pakistan is the most feasible option in that regard. So, it must not let this opportunity go out of its hand.
Unfortunately, a few Afghan leaders do not seem serious enough to remove the barriers for better trade relations between the two countries. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani on many occasions has tried to condition the trade relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan with those of Pakistan and India. Now, he seems persistent to make India a part of the proposed APTTA in some way, which does not seem feasible at the moment; particularly, in the light of extremist policies of Narender Singh Modi that has left no room for connectivity among the three countries. Modi’s policy of hatred has threatened peace in the entire region. Moreover, the Hindutva policies of the Indian government and its human rights violations in Kashmir are now known to entire international community. Pakistan has been raising voice against Indian occupation and its vehement human rights violations in all forums. It is not possible that Pakistan should forget such atrocities and invite India to join APTTA, because it knows that India can use this opportunity to derail the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. As is evident that Indian government has been attempting to isolate Pakistan in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region through the SAARC trade body which is condemnable act and a straight move to sabotage SAARC business liaising.
Pakistan seems to understand that trade ties and business relations need a sharp boost to incentivize peace in the region as there is a strong feeling that enhanced connectivity between India and Pakistan will create corridors of peace but New Delhi should first change their mindset; and, looking at the situation it seems clear that India is not in such a mood.
Therefore, for Afghanistan and Pakistan it is the best choice to go ahead with the current arrangements and must further see the reaction of India government. If India changes its policies towards Kashmir, Pakistan and the region and come up with more honest efforts for peace and co-existence, then it is possible that Afghanistan and Pakistan extend hands of friendship towards India.

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