India and Afghanistan are reportedly planning to put in place an air cargo service between the two countries to boost bilateral trade that remains stymied because of their tense political relations with Pakistan.
According to a report by news agency ‘Reuters’, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani are likely to announce the air cargo service in Amritsar where the two leaders would be meeting on the sidelines of the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference.
Quoting officials from the two countries, the report says that the focus of the air cargo service is to improve landlocked Afghanistan's connectivity to key markets abroad and boost the growth prospects of its fruit and carpet industries while it battles a deadly Taliban insurgency.
Afghanistan depends on the Karachi port for its foreign trade. It is allowed to send a limited amount of goods overland through Pakistan into India, but imports from India are not allowed along this route.
Afghan director general for macro fiscal policies Khalid Payenda told ‘Reuters’ that the potential for trade with India, the largest market in the region, was far greater than allowed by land and so the two countries had decided to use the air route.
“That would be air cargo between Afghanistan and India. We have a lot of potential for trade on both sides. On our side, it's mostly fruit and dried fruit and potentially through India to other places for products like carpets and others,” he said.
He further said that a joint venture involving an Afghan and an Indian cargo firm would be set up and that the two governments were working to set up infrastructure at airports in Kabul and Delhi.
The report quotes an Indian government source as saying that the air cargo route details were still being worked out and could include Kandahar as a point of origin for shipping fruit directly to India.