Hopes for a breakthrough on overland transit trade between Afghanistan and India are dim due to New Delhi’s “extreme reluctance” to engage with Islambad, a leading daily said on Wednesday.
An editorial ‘Regional connections’ in the ‘Dawn’ said that the latest Joint Economic Commission session between Pakistan and Afghanistan has ended without any breakthrough, and that is regrettable.
This was the 10th JEC session, and the first one following Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit last year.
Kabul voiced disappointment at the pace of progress in implementing the 48-point agenda agreed upon during President Ghani’s visit, while Islamabad pointed to thorny “security issues” as the main sticking point.
The daily said that the “raft of agreements that now await implementation between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan makes an impressive list now, but the situation on the ground stubbornly refuses to budge”.
This makes for a sad sight because both parties involved have much to gain from advancing the mutually agreed agenda for enhancing connectivity between their countries.
The editorial said, “Kabul has long demanded access to New Delhi for its trucks, as well as permission to carry commercial cargoes back. India too has long asked for overland access to Kabul from the Wagah border.”
“The matter remains stuck due to Pakistani fears that such connectivity could be the means of expanding the Indian presence in Afghanistan, with security implications for Pakistan,” it added.
The editorial noted that the deep irony is that “greater regional connectivity is the best guarantor of regional security, while at the same time it is perceived as a potentially destabilising element”.
“Given the extreme reluctance of the government in India to engage with Pakistan at the moment, it appears that hopes for a breakthrough in the near future in the matter of overland transit trade between Afghanistan and India are dim,” it observed.
The daily went on to say that the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan “goes beyond India”.
It went on to say that talks to advance the import of electricity and natural gas from Central Asia to Pakistan appear to have made much more progress than the question of transit trade, but thus far the projects in question – Casa 1000 and TAPI – also have large security-related question marks hanging over them.
“The success of these projects is closely linked to that of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. And once again, the stakes that are being held hostage by security considerations are far too large to ignore since the energy surpluses of Central Asia are a natural solution to the energy deficits of South Asia.
“Crucial to the logjam is the fact that both India and Pakistan feel they can get what they want without engaging the other, a perception that has the potential to freeze the status quo indefinitely into the future.”