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New Afghan-Pak deal may upset India

Last updated on: July 19, 2010 10:38 IST

New Afghan-Pak deal may upset India

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Pakistan and Afghanistan have reached an understanding on major issues related to a new bilateral transit trade pact though Indian exports to Afghanistan via the Wagah land route will not be permitted under the proposed agreement.

"It has been agreed that no Indian export to Afghanistan will be allowed through Wagah. However, Afghanistan would have the opportunity to export to India," said a statement issued by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's office.

Pakistan will reciprocally be able to export its goods to Central Asia through Afghanistan, the statement said.

Final shape was given to the proposed pact, which will replace an agreement signed in 1965, during seven protracted rounds of negotiations. Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: Afghan and Pakistani commerce ministers signing the pact
Photographs: Reuters
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The official statement said the two sides had reached "an understanding on all major issues" related to the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement and concluded the "process of negotiations in this regard".

A "broad-based record note" was signed on Sunday evening by Pakistan's Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and his Afghan counterpart Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady in the presence of Gilani and visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Islamabad has for long resisted pressure from Kabul to allow the export of Indian goods by land through Pakistani territory.

The record note stated that Pakistan and Afghanistan "hope that the resolution of all outstanding matters" related to the Transit Trade Agreement will help in the early signing of the pact after completion of legal processes by both sides.

"The agreement thus signed would be an important milestone in the development of Pak-Afghan trade and economic relationship to the mutual benefit of both sides," the note said.

The note further said Afghan trucks will be allowed to carry export cargo on designated routes to Pakistani seaports and the Wagah land border post.


Image: A policeman inspects a bullet riddled truck, which was carrying supplies to Kabul, after it was attacked while leaving Karachi for Kandahar
Photographs: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
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Afghan transport units, on their return, will be permitted to carry goods from Pakistan to Afghanistan "under the same expeditious procedures and conditions as Pakistani transport units", it added.

The two sides decided Afghan transit goods will be exported in containers of international specifications. For a period of three years, standard cargo will be transported in internationally acceptable and verifiable standards of sealable trucks while oversize and bulk cargo imported by ship will be transported in open trucks or other transport units.

Drivers will be allowed to enter or exit the two countries on permits that can identified by biometric devices installed at entry points. It was also agreed that an Arbitral Tribunal will be established bilaterally.

To tackle unauthorised trade, it was agreed that tracking devices will be installed on transport units and a mechanism for custom-to-custom information sharing will be established.


Image: A convoy of supply trucks on their way to Kabul

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Commerce Minister Fahim said the proposed agreement will allow landlocked Afghanistan to export goods to India through Pakistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari telephoned his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to inform him of the finalisation of the deal, sources in the presidency said.

"President Karzai termed the agreement as a major step in the promotion of regional trade and congratulated the people of the two countries on the deal," a source said.

Under the new agreement, Afghan trucks will be allowed to cross the Torkham land border and deliver goods to any Pakistani city.

Afghanistan has already given this facility to Pakistani truckers. Pakistan and Afghanistan had signed a MoU in Washington in May last year to begin talks on a new transit trade agreement. The talks were facilitated by the US.

The two countries had agreed to finalise the pact by the end of 2009, but differences over allowing India to trade with Afghanistan via Pakistan and concerns over smuggling delayed the agreement.



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