India-Afghan Air Cargo Link Over Pakistan On The Cards

India and Afghanistan have decided to sign an air cargo service pact in order to boost trade ties.
As “common neighbour” Pakistan continues to deny transit link for Indo-Afghan trade through its territory, New Delhi and Kabul plan to use the aerial route to strengthen bilateral trade co-operation. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who arrived in northern Indian city of Amritsar on Saturday to attend the “Heart of Asia” conference, discussed the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders expressed hope that the proposed air cargo service would improve landlocked Afghanistan’s connectivity to key foreign and regional markets.
Later, President Ghani told the Indian media that the proposed move would certainly boost the growth prospects of Afghan fruit and carpet industries. The visiting Afghan president said that his country, which battles a deadly Taliban insurgency, was trying hard to increase its export volume. He also said that Afghanistan needs money to fight Taliban militants.
Meanwhile, Afghan Director General (for Macro Fiscal Policies) Khalid Payenda stressed that the war-ravaged South Asian country depends heavily on Pakistan’s Karachi port for its foreign trade. But, it is not possible for Afghanistan to send goods to India through Pakistan because of the political tension between two nuclear-armed neighbours. So, according to Payenda, it becomes important to establish the air cargo link between India and Afghanistan over Pakistan.
“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,” stressed the top Afghan official. He informed the press that the two governments started making preparations for setting up infrastructure at airports in Kabul and New Delhi.
Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz, too, arrived in Amritsar on Saturday evening to take part in the Heart of Asia conference aimed at stabilising Afghanistan. Although Aziz’s early arrival in Amritsar surprised New Delhi, the Indian External Affairs Ministry made no comments on Pak premier’s foreign policy adviser’s change in plan. On Sunday, the Pakistani media took note of the handshake and exchange of niceties between Aziz and the Indian premier amid tension between the two neighbours over cross-border terrorism. PM Modi and Aziz, along with officials of nearly 40 countries and leading groupings (like the European Union), attended the Heart of Asia conference to discuss various challenges facing Afghanistan.
Speaking at the conference, the Indian PM, the Afghan president and other officials expressed serious concern over the activities of terrorist outfits, such as al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed, in the region and urged all the member countries to join hands against these groups in order to ensure peace in South Asia and to revive the peace process in the conflict-ridden Afghanistan.
The conference’s Amritsar declaration clearly states: “We recognise the necessity of taking serious measures to address recruitment of youth to extremist and terrorist networks. We realise radicalisation of youth can only be prevented by effective de-radicalisation strategies involving all Heart of Asia countries.”


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