Afghan Traders Ask for Reliable Transit Routes
Tuesday 21 May 2013
HERAT (Pajhwok Afghan News) – Afghan traders, concerned at their problems in Pakistan and Iran, on Monday asked the government to find alternative transit routes for their import and export businesses.
- Chabahar docks
The traders who held a gathering in Herat city, the capital of western Herat province that borders Iran, said Pakistan and Iran were creating problems for them by acting against the transit agreements.
Chamber of Commerce and Industries chief for Herat, Hajji Seroos Alaf, said the Afghan government should find alternative transit routes for traders. Industrialists association chief, Hamidullah Khadim, said the government should open transit roads connecting Afghanistan with central Asian countries through the Torghondai, Heratan, Sherkhan and Wakhan dry ports. He said Iran continued to create hurdles for their goods regardless of transit laws. He said they wanted alternative routes to reduce their dependence on the two neighbouring countries.
Still, Iranian semi-official media blame Pakistan and advocates a deal with Iran would be more attractive amid Afghanistan’s ongoing transit problems with Pakistani ports. The Iranian officials have encouraged Afghanistan to use its Chabahar port for Afghan traders in an effort to improve its transit and commercial ties with its neighbour. India is also seeking to take advantage of the potentials of Chabahar port to ensure a link into Afghanistan for its goods. India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to give Indian goods, heading for Central Asia and Afghanistan, preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar.
Chabahar port – located 72 km west of Pakistan’s Gwadar port – holds immense strategic and economic significance for India. The port is already connected to the city of Zaranj in Afghanistan’s south-western province of Nimruz and can serve as India’s entry point to Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond. The Indian government plans to improve the berthing facility of Chabahar port and expand its container terminal.
India and Iran are obviously seeking to minimize the dependence of Afghanistan to Pakistan and reduce the importance of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement (also known as TTA) which is a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries and has been renegotiated several times, with the most recent being signed on 28 October 2010. Originally, the treaty – signed in 1950 – gave Afghanistan the right to import Duty free goods through Karachi. Currently, this treaty allows Afghanistan access to the port of Lahore, and also access to a land route to export goods to India. However, it does not allow India to use the land route to export goods to Afghanistan. In 2006 the total net worth of smuggled goods into Pakistan had been set at 80% of all imports into Pakistan via the ATTA.