Afghan President Ashraf Ghani & Prime Minister Modi had a crucial bilateral in Amritsar at the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference. The most important decision out of the bilateral is the soon to be started air cargo service between the two countries.

The focus is on improving trade & commerce between the two nations, & to improve landlocked Afghanistan’s connectivity with the region. This will increase Indo-Afghan trade which has taken a hit due to tensions for both the nations with Pakistan.

Afghanistan is dependent on the Karachi port for its foreign trade. But the country is allowed only a limited amount of goods overland through Pakistan to India, & imports from India are not allowed at all. This seriously impacts Afghanistan’s trade as the nation wants & has the opportunity to expand trade with India which is the biggest market in the region.

“We have a lot of potential for trade on both sides. On our side, it’s mostly fruit & dried fruit & potentially through India to other places for products like carpets,” Afghan director general for macro fiscal policies Khalid Payenda said.

Important Points of the Arrangement

  • Work on setting up infrastructure at airports in Kabul & Delhi underway.
  • Details are being worked out & the cargo route could also include Kandahar as a point of origin for shipping fruit directly to India.

Relevance of the Deal

  • This can be seen a significant step on India’s part to strengthen its ties with Afghanistan, & even strengthen the economy of Afghanistan which eventually serves in India’s geopolitical interests.
  • This is another step in isolating Pakistan. Even though Afghanistan does little trade with India through Pakistan, if this trade is stopped & rerouted, then Pakistan becomes irrelevant to Indo-Afghan trade ties.
  • In the wake of constant terror attacks on Afghanistan soil, giving a boost to its economy will improve its own capability to fight terror.
  • Also, this is very important to counter the growing Sino-Pakistan ties which are aimed at ‘sandwiching’ India. Such moves will divert Pakistan’s attention to an economically strengthening Afghanistan, thus forcing it to depend less on its proxy-war policy against both India & Afghanistan, & also creating a strong ‘all-weather’ Islamic ally for India to face China & Pakistan.

 

Vinayak Jain