In the past few years the rise of political tensions between Afghanistan and its eastern neighbor, Pakistan has negatively affected trade relations of the two making their trade flow to its lowest possible level. The rise of political tension between the two countries caused Afghanistan to change its economic policies and trade partners from east to western and northern countries.
Opening a new trade route to Afghanistan that bypasses Pakistan, India has dispatched recently its first consignment of wheat to the country via the Iranian port of Chabahar.The strategic sea route is a significant step in bolstering trade with Kabul that has been hampered because Pakistan does not allow India to transport goods to Afghanistan through its territory.
As Afghanistan’s divergence of trade continues to avoid dependency on Pakistan, Islamabad’s exports to the country have significantly reduced. Apart from Afghanistan’s growing trade with Iran and other central Asian economies, the heightened security protocols on Pakistani side, improved manufacturing facilities in Afghanistan and increase in informal trade are the reasons behind this huge reduction.
In another move of reducing its dependence on Pakistan, Kabul has initiated air cargo service by sending a plane loaded with tons of dry and fresh fruits to New Delhi, raising hopes of giving a major boost to commerce between Afghanistan and India.
Meanwhile Afghanistan’s connectivity with One Road One Belt Project of China, implementation of TAPI project, rail corridors between regional countries, the implementation of several gas pipeline projects between central Asian and south Asian countries, the establishment of Lapis Lazuli Road and the further expansion of investments by the private sector among regional countries are potential enough to turn the fate of Afghanistan’s trade and economy as well as to reduce dependency in trade to Pakistan.
Over the last 16 years, Pakistan has time and again closed the Torkham and Spin Boldak passes — the only ways for Afghanistan to reach seaports and Pakistani markets — detaining thousands of loaded trucks for weeks on both sides of the border. These sudden border closures have cost millions of dollars in trade loss for Afghanistan as the exporter of highly perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables.
Farmers and small traders took a hard hit when an entire year’s worth of hard work rotted away on loaded trucks stranded on the border for days and weeks.
Meanwhile in mid-October of this year Pakistan not only prevented Afghan trucks from crossing the border but also, without any prior notification, increased the customs tariff rates by up to 150% on 120 out of 741 Afghan goods being exported to Pakistan.
Now Pakistani officials have showed concern over increasing Afghan trade with Iran and the Central Asia, saying their trade deficit with Afghanistan would harm their economy, which is indeed the result of their own policy on Afghanistan.
Afghanistan still secure central role, given the road to giant central Asian countries. Pakistan is needed to normalize its entire affairs and seek for economic superiority and fair trade policies inthe interest of whole region. Pakistan must ensure security and better ties through cuttingsupport to terrorism, extremism and militancy in the region, in particular Afghanistan.