The US today welcomed the inauguration of a direct commercial air corridor between India and Afghanistan that bypasses Pakistan, describing the route as a new avenue for Afghan products to enter the international market. “We welcome this new avenue for Afghan products…and India’s contributions to Afghanistan’s development and economic growth,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI. The maiden flight from Kabul taking the route landed in New Delhi yesterday. It carried 60 tonnes of cargo, mostly asafoetida (hing). The new route is expected to boost bilatyeral trade ties and give landlocked Afghanistan a larger access to Indian markets. It should benefit the Afghan farmers, giving them a quick access to Indian markets for their perishable produce.
In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani decided to open a direct air corridor between the two countries. That year, Ghani urged businesses to target USD 10 billion in bilateral trade over five years. India has been closely working with Afghanistan to create alternate and reliable access routes, bypassing Pakistan. In January 2015, India had announced to allow Afghan trucks to enter the Indian territory through Attari land check-post for offloading and loading goods from and to Afghanistan.
India is also working with Afghanistan and Iran for development of the Chabahar Port. A trilateral transport and transit agreement based on sea access through Chabahar was signed between the three countries in Tehran in May 2016. Currently major exports from India to Afghanistan are man-made filaments, apparels and clothing accessories, pharmaceutical products, cereals, man-made staple fibres, tobacco products, dairy and poultry products, coffee, tea,meat and spices.
Major imports from Afghanistan to India are fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, vegetables, oil seeds, precious, semi-precious stones. At the moment, up to five flights operate daily between Afghanistan and India, bringing nearly 1,000 Afghans, many of them for medical treatment in Indian hospitals.