Strategy needed before allowing Afghan trade access to India

KARACHI: Islamabad policy makers may devise a comprehensive strategy to streamline all the necessary things so that Pakistani exporters can take maximum benefit against exports to Afghanistan and further to Central Asian states via Afghan route, said former Chairman Standing Committee FPCCI Ahmad Jawad.

Exports from Pakistan have decreased due to problems in the transit trade agreement and strained relations. He warned that once Afghanistan trade access to India is executed from Islamabad then it might be difficult to sustain our trade volumes, said Jawad.

Though Afghan officials see India and Pakistan as the two primary markets for Afghanistan. However, it is reported that the federal government has agreed to give Afghanistan trade access to India using Pakistani soil, while in response Afghanistan has agreed to give Pakistan trade access to Sher Khan Bandar, a border area of Tajikistan.

Sources said that one year ago, a proposed trilateral agreement had been drafted for land trade among Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan which had to be signed. At the time of the signature, Afghanistan wanted to put in the condition to include India in the agreement. However, Pakistan opposed the Afghanistan’s condition.

This made the future of the trilateral transit trade agreement uncertain. But the government has now agreed to give Afghanistan trade access to India.

The present bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan stands at nearly $2.5 billion and both have agreed to increase it to $5 billion by 2017. The trade volume is mostly in Pakistan’s favour and according to sources, nearly 70 per cent items are exported to the neighbouring countries.

Jawad also stressed that peaceful economic cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan and improved trade and transit facilities could help connect South Asia with Central Asia. As both nations need to improve trade facilitation through streamlined payments settlement and improved insurance mechanisms, use of bonded carriers, visa issuance, trade financing, tax collection, and documentation on priority; he added.