ISLAMABAD: Afghan authorities appear to have lost interest in pushing forward any trade related agreements with Pakistan with the alternative route via Iran close to being finalised.
Last week, on April 11, Iran, Afghanistan and India 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.
This development could possibly downgrade Pakistan’s importance from being the primary facilitator of India-Afghanistan trade to a mere back-up. This means that Pakistan has potentially lost a great opportunity to build strategic trade ties with regional economies.
Officials in the Ministry of Commerce told The Express Tribune 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,” noted the official.
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 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 the other side.
“We have learnt that they have shared the draft agreement with their security agencies for clearance, which is surprising for us,” said the official.
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.
The JBC was supposed to hold its first meeting in February 2015, but it could not take place.
“We have again asked the Pakistan Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) to set another date in this regard. However, the ministry has not received any response from FPCCI. The members of the JBC have already been notified from each side.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.