Pak-Afghan trade improves
Sajjad Shaukat


ECONOMIC prosperity is the paramount for stability of any country. Afghanistan being a land locked country is mostly reliant on Pakistan for transit and bilateral trade. As per recent survey both countries have potential of trade up to $5 billion annually. In earlier quarter of 2018, although, trade with Afghanistan decreased from $3 billion to $500 million; however recent figures and trends are very optimistic and futuristic. Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to maintain upward trajectory of trade in spite of all hurdles. The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul was pleased to report in October 2018 that due to its well-directed efforts, Afghanistan exports to Pakistan increased by 29.53% from US$ 443 million 2017-18. Pakistan remained the largest export market for Afghanistan. On the other hand, Afghanistan continue to increase its imports from Pakistan, as Afghan imports increased from Pakistan by 18.33% for the period i.e. US $ 1,271 million in year 2016-17 to US $ 1,504 million in year 2017-18. Karachi Port also remained a major venue for Afghan transit trade as worth US $ 3.321 billion goods were imported by Afghanistan in the year 2017-18 through the port.

In this respect, Afghanistan’s independent news agency, Pajhwok wrote on May10, 2018, “Kabul and Islamabad have agreed on forging sustainable economic relations and taking effective measures to ensure economic activities between the neighbours. Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Nasir Khan Janjua and a business delegation from Afghanistan discussed ways of boosting bilateral economic relations and trade. At a meeting in Islamabad, both sides agreed to remove the difficulties being faced by traders to jack up Af-Pak trade volume, a statement from Janjua’s office said. A day earlier, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on strengthening institutional mechanisms. They stressed the need for holding of the 7th Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority meeting. The Afghan delegation, led by Deputy Minister of Commerce Kamila Sidiqi, called on Secretary Commerce Mohammad Younus Dagha. The two sides expressed the desire to enhance trade relations by overcoming challenges.” However, both the countries realize that bilateral steps should be taken to improve the trade volume because these acts have direct link with prosperity and stability in the region. In this regard, a senior official of Pakistan said on February 24, 2018 that Islamabad was committed to discuss and resolve all the outstanding issues related to bilateral and transit trade with Afghanistan.
It is notable that South China Morning Post wrote on December 26, 2017, “China and Pakistan will look at extending their US$57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said…part of China’s One Belt and Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond. China has tried to position itself as a helpful party to promote talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan…The successful implementation of CPEC [China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] projects will serve as a model for enhancing connectivity and cooperation through similar projects with neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and with Central and West Asia”, he added.” It is mentionable that CPEC is predicted to bring industrialization and investment to Pakistan, the carry-over effects of which will obviously benefit neighbouring Afghanistan also. Unlike the US sponsored India-Iran-Afghanistan Chabahar project, the CPEC is wider project, between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China. The connected roads will enable Afghan businessmen and investors to access the enormous consumer markets in South Asia, thereby increasing Afghanistan’s exports and reducing the costs of imports. CPEC can bring the three nations under a common economic, commercial and industrial umbrella which, in turn, can ensure joint efforts for peace, security and stability in Afghanistan.
Notably, the American President Trump has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal and is following war-mongering diplomacy against Tehran by imposing and toughening sanctions. Now, ties between the US and Pakistan are improving. Positive change in Pak-US relationship has resulted into positive change between Afghan-Pakistan ties. Therefore, Kabul has re-opened Pakistan consulate in Jalalabad. Despite these developments, the US-led secret strategy which is part of Zionist-led American double game compelled Pakistan to fortify its relations with Russia. In this respect, an agreement has been signed on August 7, 2018 between Islamabad and Moscow for training of Pakistani troops in Russia, decided at culmination of first meeting of joint Military Consultative Committee (JMCC) in Islamabad. Pakistan’s defence ties with Moscow are growing strong with each passing day and this pact has opened new avenues of cooperation between the two countries. A desire from both sides has already been seen in the near past in boosting economic and political relations.
Obviously, these moves are seen with suspicion by the US and India, including Israel. On September 27, this year, Pakistan and Russia signed a historic $10 billion offshore gas pipeline agreement in Moscow. The project will help Russia cement its place in the energy market of Pakistan. Islamabad, Moscow and Beijing share common opinion that the presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan failed to restore stability in that war-torn country. As new alliance of Russia, China, Pakistan and Turkey is emerging to check the influence of the US in Afghanistan and the Middle East, therefore, Iran could abandon the US-backed India-Afghanistan Chabahar project and could join the CPEC project. Nonetheless, it is good sign that trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan is rapidly improving.