Pakistan’s interests must be protected
India and Afghanistan have joined hands against Pakistan and China’s joint venture, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Chabahar Port, which India is constructing in Iran as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, is being portrayed as a competitor and an alternative to CPEC, and a better option for routing Afghanistan’s transit trade. Besides opportunities for trade and business, instability in Afghanistan also creates more ground for India’s major role in Afghan politics. Hence, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has multidimensional implications for Pakistan. Due to unending insurgency and conflict, Pakistan’s stakes inside Afghanistan and its plans of westward expansion are under extreme threat. Moreover, projects with Central Asian Republics (CARs) are also deemed to face serious security issues.
Despite Pakistan’s unrelenting commitment toward restoration of peace and incessant efforts to boost Afghanistan’s economy, Pak-Afghan trade has been on a continuous decline as it has fallen from $2.5b to $1b in the past two years. There are many reasons behind this fall but the principal one is that a major chunk of Afghan goods has been shifted to Chabahar Port. In addition, Afghan traders generally have been wary of Pakistan’s tariff rules and strict policies, and they have consistently criticized them. Although the presence of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) provided ample space for Afghan traders to use Pakistan’s territory as transit for import and/or export of goods, yet they have concerns and have expressed them at various platforms, time and again. The inclusion of India in this bilateral agreement is their prime demand which Pakistan is not ready to fulfil, owing to certain concerns.
While talking to media during his recent visit to India, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that Pakistan would not be allowed access to Central Asia because it did not allow the inclusion of India in APTTA. Obviously, Afghan high-ups adopt a typical anti-Pakistan tone and tenor while speaking inside India or USA. Moreover, after President Trump’s new South Asia policy in which he has envisioned a major role for India in Afghanistan, there has been a considerable change in the attitude and tone of Afghan president. Whether it was his speech in the UN General Assembly or his discussions in various meetings with Indian Prime Minister and President, his gestures exude his malice against Pakistan and support of Indian designs for future engagements in Afghanistan.
India is the fifth largest country in terms of providing aid and helping Afghanistan in its development and rehabilitation. The construction of railway track from Iran border to Herat, about 200 public and private schools, construction of Parliament building in Kabul, Salma Dam in Herat, provision of about a thousand scholarships to Afghan students in India and gift of buses to Aryana are some of the areas where India has invested and is also expanding its clout to other related areas gradually.
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