NEW DELHI: Afghanistan is looking to circumvent hurdles allegedly created by
at the Wagah-Attari border to
onions to India. It has raised with Pakistan authorities the need for officials to not delay the export to India.
The Indian government has been keen to import onions from Afghanistan via the land border with Pakistan to meet the shortage here of the kitchen staple.
Pakistan had in June resumed Afghan exports through Wagah border crossing, after implementing Covid-19 protocols, in keeping with its
transit trade agreement
with Afghanistan. Afghanistan's exports to India via Wagah had been disrupted in March because of Covid.
Pakistan claims it remains fully committed to further strengthening its bilateral relations with Afghanistan in all areas including trade, and to facilitate Afghanistan’s transit trade. However,
the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment
(ACCI) has received complaints from
in Kabul alleging that almost 70 percent of the onions meant for India was rotting away at the Wagah border because of the delay in processing.
Sources said only 30 percent of the trucks arriving at the border were being processed daily. Then there were other problems like, as a source said, not enough scanners and Pakistan authorities insisting on repackaging the consignment in bags of smaller sizes leading to an increase in cost for traders and also delay in processing. The ACCI had warned that these conditions could hurt bilateral trade.
Under its 2010 transit trade agreement with Afghanistan, Pakistan allows Afghanistan to export to India via the border but not to import from India. Pakistani authorities have so far opposed any proposal to allow India to use the border for two-way trade with Afghanistan, claiming it will hurt their agreement with Afghanistan.
According to the Indian government, while there is immense potential to expand bilateral trade with Afghanistan, the difficulties in transit via Pakistan remained a major hurdle in expanding trade ties. In order to expand trade, Afghanistan and India had launched a dedicated Air Freight Corridor in 2017.
The Corridor is said to have already witnessed
close to a 1000 flights, carrying goods valued at more than $ 216 million. "This has provided a boost to Afghan exports to India and has directly benefited Afghan farmers and small traders and exporters," says an official.
The operationalisation of the Chabahar Port in Iran in 2017 and the subsequent agreement to manage port operations also helped India strengthen bilateral trade, bypassing Pakistan. According to Indian authorities, the Port has so far handled over 5,000 containers ferrying over 110,000 tons of wheat and over 2,000 tons of pulses sent by India as assistance to Afghanistan via Chabahar.