Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 27
In a further boost to bilateral connectivity, the second air corridor between India and Afghanistan was inaugurated on Wednesday.
Expanding the cargo corridor, the inaugural flight departed from Kabul International Airport to Mumbai.
Earlier in June, the first dedicated air freight corridor was flagged off between Kabul and Delhi by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.
Welcoming the move, Indian Ambassador to Kabul Manpreet Vohra wrote on Twitter, “Congratulations, #Afghanistan ! The #IndiaAfghanistanAirCorridor expanded today! His Excellency Afghan Vice President Sarwar Danish inaugurated the first cargo flight from Kabul to Mumbai. Real and unimpeded connectivity for Afghan traders.”
Quoting Afghan officials, local media reported that some 10,640 tons of fresh produce, fresh and dried fruits, medicinal plants and handicrafts worth more than 20 million USD had been exported to India since the launch of the first corridor in mid-June.
The aim is to provide landlocked Afghanistan greater access to Indian markets even as Pakistan continues to be a hurdle for road transit.
Air cargo connectivity is facilitating direct access to Indian markets for Afghan farmers for their perishable produce.
Currently, Afghanistan exports fresh fruits, dried fruits/ nuts, raisins, vegetables, oil seeds, precious/semi-precious stones among other things to India.
With phase 1 of the Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar also operational, India is now able to ship wheat to Afghanistan through the sea route as well.
Connectivity for trade and development remains top priority for war-torn Afghanistan.
Interestingly, after the inaugural meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China this week, there were indications that Afghanistan could in future join the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of Beijing’s grand Belt and Road Initiative.
India has strong objections to CPEC as it passes through illegal territory in Pak-Occupied Kashmir. Though Indian official sources maintain Afghanistan remains sensitive to Indian concerns.
During his visit to India in October, Ghani had stressed that Afghanistan wants to become an Asian roundabout and not a cul-de-sac.
Asked specifically about Pakistan being a hurdle to India-Afghanistan land trade, Ghani had asked if Pakistan can be linked to Central Asia without Afghanistan.
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