Islamabad: Pakistan wants to resume trade and transit talks with Afghanistan but minus India. Kabul is not ready for that.
Pakistan has asked Afghanistan to resume bilateral trade talks after Kabul called off three key trade meetings over the past few months, the Dawn newspaper reported on Sunday. “We have conveyed to Afghanistan that we wish to keep India out of our bilateral talks on trade and transit issues,” an official source in Pakistan’s commerce ministry told Dawn. The official, who took part in several rounds of trade talks with Kabul, said the message had been passed on to the Afghan leadership.
Afghanistan’s proposal to include India in talks led to the suspension of bilateral trade talks, the source added. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that Kabul was not willing to talk to Pakistan on trade issues – including the trilateral trade agreement involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan – without India. According to the source, Kabul has suspended talks on the Afghanistan- Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority. The meeting was to be held in Kabul to review the implementation status of the agreement.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have constituted a joint business council to promote trade and business. Both sides have already exchanged the list of members of the business council, whose first meeting was to be convened in Islamabad but Kabul did not agree on a date, the source said. “We had good interaction with many ministers in Afghanistan but things changed in the meeting with the Afghan president,” the source said. “We returned disappointed from Kabul.”
Afghanistan and Pakistan had earlier projected to double bilateral trade to $5 billion from current $2.5 billion in the next three years.