Pakistan, Afghanistan report progress in trade talks

In Local
March 29, 2024



ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan and Afghanistan reported progress in trade talks on Thursday, as the Afghan Taliban government claimed Islamabad agreed to reverse some recent decisions amid tensions between the two estranged neighbours.

The two-day talks took place in Kabul, with the Pakistani delegation led by its Commerce Secretary and the Afghan government represented by its commerce minister.

These talks unfolded against the backdrop of simmering tensions over continued cross-border terrorist attacks, which Pakistan insists mostly originate from Afghanistan.

Despite these tensions, both sides deemed the talks in Kabul a success.

Read more: Pakistan, Afghanistan impasse

While the Pakistani side didn’t delve into specifics, the Afghan interim government issued a statement claiming agreement on several issues.

A statement from the foreign office stated that Secretary of Commerce Khurrum Agha visited Afghanistan from the 24th to the 27th to discuss bilateral and transit trade matters with Afghanistan’s Commerce Minister, Nooruddin Azizi.

The discussions encompassed topics such as the bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement, implementation of Temporary Admission Document (TAD) for trade vehicle drivers, multimodal air transit, and addressing issues related to transit trade.

Also read: We don’t want armed conflict with Afghanistan: Asif

“We are encouraged by the progress made on these issues and remain committed to promoting trade and people-to-people ties with Afghanistan,” said Mumtaz Zahra Baloch during a weekly briefing for reporters.

The official statement from the Afghan government was more explicit, noting that both sides agreed on several matters while emphasizing the need to separate trade from political issues.

The statement outlined an understanding to finalise an Afghan Transit Trade agreement within two months. Additionally, Pakistan agreed to issue a special permit for Afghan truck drivers, reversing its previous decision to require visas for drivers travelling between the two countries.

The Taliban’s statement mentioned Pakistan’s agreement to withdraw its requirement for bank guarantees from Afghan traders using Pakistani ports for trade. Islamabad imposed these restrictions last month to curb smuggling and misuse of Afghan transit trade facilities.

In the wake of the heinous terrorist attack on March 26 near Besham, which claimed the lives of five Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s spokesperson stated that the government was in contact with the Chinese government.

“We are fully committed to bringing the terrorists and their facilitators and abettors to justice. Such despicable acts further strengthen Pakistan’s resolve in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” she affirmed.

“Pakistan and China are close friends and iron brothers. We have no doubt that the Besham terror attack was orchestrated by the enemies of Pakistan-China friendship. Together, we will resolutely act against all such forces and defeat them,” she added.

Regarding the possibility of resuming trade ties with India, the spokesperson noted that Pakistan’s relations with India are under regular assessment and examination.

“Pakistan’s relations with India are an important aspect of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy. Pakistan-India trade relations, if you would recall, have been non-existent since 2019 when certain steps were taken by the Indian authorities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and subsequent steps have further deteriorated conditions in IIOJK,” she elaborated.

“A few days ago, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan mentioned that some members of the business community have expressed interest in reviewing trade-related matters with India. Examination of such proposals is a regular exercise in the Government of Pakistan, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where we continue to consider all such requests and assess our policy. At this point, there is no change in Pakistan’s position,” she emphasised.

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