Agra: Afghan commerce minister Anwarul Haq Ahady on Monday criticized Pakistan for not allowing Indian goods transit facilities through its territory, a move he said was hampering trade between Asia’s third largest economy and the landlocked and impoverished Afghanistan.
Ahady was speaking at a session on South Asia and regional connectivity organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) lobby group in Agra.
Referring to the South Asia Free Trade Area (Safta) pact that came into force in January 2006, Ahady said he was “quite unhappy” with Pakistan for restricting Indian goods from transiting through Pakistan, which he said was not in the spirit of the accord. His country’s “trade with India is hampered by it”, Ahady said.
Afghanistan joined the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or Saarc, in 2007. The group includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, besides Afghanistan.
Besides not allowing transit under the Safta pact, Pakistan also does not permit the transit of Indian goods through its territory under another pact signed between neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2010. The Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement allows Afghan trucks to carry Afghan transit cargo to Pakistani ports and also the Indian border at Wagah. But it does not allow Indian exports loaded on the same trucks through Pakistan.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been hostile mainly over competing claims over Kashmir. The trigger for three of the four wars between India and Pakistan since 1947, Kashmir is administered by both countries in parts. Till recently, Pakistan was averse to normalizing ties with India—whether trade or cultural—till the Kashmir row was sorted out. But since 2011, Pakistan has taken steps to normalize trade, including moving from a large positive list of items that could not be traded between the neighbours to a smaller positive list.
Commerce minister Anand Sharma described regional economic integration as a necessity. “We have no choice—our countries have to work together. There has to be an enduring trust so that there are no setbacks to trade,” he said.
Elizabeth Roche is attending the CII Partnership Summit 2013 as a guest of CII.