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Kabul ultimatum to Pak on delay in including India in trade deal

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 19, 2018

Afghanistan wants access to Indian markets through the Wagah-Attari border

Afghanistan has given an ultimatum of sorts to Pakistan for the delay in including India into the soon-to-be-implemented PATTTA (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Trade and Transit Agreement). PATTTA would give Afghanistan “seamless connectivity” to the Indian markets through the Wagah-Attari border.

A top Afghan official, on conditions of anonymity, told BuisnessLine: “We have now given an ultimatum to the Pakistan government that if they want us to give them access to the Central Asian market through the Tajikistan border, then they will also have to ensure seamless connectivity for us with India through the Wagah-Attari border.” Both countries will finalise the talks on expanding the PATTTA in Islamabad next week, the official said on the sidelines of an event, organised by CII, FICCI and Assocham on ‘Enhancing Regional Connectivity’, for the visiting Afghanistan Chief Executive (CE) Abdullah Abdullah.

Addressing business chambers, Abdullah Abdullah had said: “Opening channels of trade will improve the lives of our people and will generate all-round development of our nations and our governments. We are working towards the full implementation of PATTTA as well as its meaningful extension into India.” He also said the issue was discussed during his meeting earlier with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Abdullah Abdullah, who is on an eight-day visit here, said without proper connectivity with India, both countries are not able to realise the full potential of bilateral trade and investment. He also hinted towards trilateral agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran. He said the ongoing project by India to develop Iran’s Chabahar Port which will use Afghanistan as a crucial transit point will give a boost to connectivity facilitating trade and investments.

India keen on proposal

The proposal to include India into PATTTA was first made in 2012 by former Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma to his then Pakistan counterpart Makhdoom Ameen Faheem. Later, the proposal was strongly pushed by the Narendra Modi-led government.

The proposal was also taken up by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Pakistan last month when she met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz.

During his visit to India last year in April, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had made a proposal of allowing Afghan trucks into the Integrated Check Post at Attari land customs station.

Bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan has reached $684.47 million in 2014-15 from $80 million in 2002-03. However, India’s exports to Afghanistan contracted 11 per cent to $422.56 million last fiscal compared to $474.34 million in 2013-14, according to Ministry of Commerce and Industry data.

At present, containers and trucks carrying load from Afghanistan are forced to drop their consignments at the last checkpoint at the Wagah border which is then picked up by the Indian authorities. Besides, India is also not able to send its shipments destined for Afghanistan using the same containers, resulting in loss of time and money.

Published on February 04, 2016

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