Afghanistan prefers India to Pakistan for trade ties: Report

Islamabad: Pakistan feels it has potentially lost a great opportunity to build strategic trade ties with regional economies owing to Afghanistan’s preference for a trilateral agreement with India and Iran via Chabahar port, a media report said today.

The report carried in ‘The Express Tribune’ said that Pakistan is set to lose lucrative trade deal with Afghanistan as Kabul appears to have lost interest in it and is eager to develop an alternative route via Iran which is close to being finalised.

Iran, Afghanistan and India on April 11 finished negotiating the details of the trilateral transport and transit pact, meant to provide legal framework to operate trade corridors via Iran’s Chabahar port, the report said.

This development could possibly downgrade Pakistan’s importance from being the primary facilitator of India-Afghanistan trade to a mere back-up, meaning that Pakistan has potentially lost a great opportunity to build strategic trade ties with regional economies, it said.

Officials in the Ministry of Commerce told the the paper that Afghan authorities were slower in responding to the proposed bilateral and transit trade related matters and it seemed that they were least interested towards Pakistan and would rather devote their time and energy towards materialising the trilateral agreement with Iran and India.

“All this happened because Pakistan refused to include India in the Pak-Afghan transit trade agreement,” the official claimed.

Afghanistan insists that India must be part of the transit trade agreement in the same way as Pakistan uses Afghan soil to reach Central Asian states, the report said.

The officer cited a draft agreement pertaining to the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) that the ministry had sent months ago.

He insisted that there has been no response from Kabul.

“We have learnt that they have shared the draft agreement with their security agencies for clearance, which is surprising for us,” the official said.

Moreover, the maiden meeting of the Pak-Afghan Joint Business Council (JBC) has not been held even after its establishment around five months ago to discuss issues and to devise strategies for enhancing bilateral trade, it said.

The JBC was supposed to hold its first meeting in February last year, but it could not take place.

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