Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel stand guard at the India-Pakistan Wagah Border post, some 35 km west of Amritsar, on February 27, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan will reopen a key border crossing from Wednesday to facilitate transit trade with Afghanistan, permitting exports from Afghanistan to India, officials said on Monday.

The decision has been taken at the special request of the Government of Afghanistan after ensuring enforcement of COVID-19 trade protocols.

“To facilitate Afghanistan’s transit trade, Pakistan has decided to resume Afghan exports through Wagah border as of 15 July 2020” Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan tweeted. Pakistan has already restored bilateral trade and Afghan transit trade at all border crossings, he added.

With this step, “Pakistan has fulfilled its commitments under Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA)”, said a statement from the Foreign Ministry. However, it was not clear for how long Afghanistan would be able to enjoy these special facilities.

The APTTA agreement signed in 2010 for the movement of goods between the two countries became operational in 2011. The trade deal offers traders of landlocked Afghanistan access to the eastern Wagah border with India, where Afghan goods are offloaded onto Indian trucks. It does not, however, allow the transportation of goods from India to Afghanistan by land.

Pakistan opens more border crossings with Afghanistan

Pakistan and Afghanistan share 18 crossing points. Torkham and Chaman are the ones most frequently used by traders. Islamabad recently opened five trade routes with Kabul including Chaman, Torkham, Ghulam Khan, Angor Adda and Kharlachi for transit trade and exports to Afghanistan. Pakistan had closed all its borders in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pakistan begins transit trade with Afghanistan via Gwadar

This year, Pakistan opened new avenues of business with Afghanistan with the launch of the Afghan transit trade via Gwadar Port — the heart of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Abdul Razzak Dawood, Adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Commerce and Investment, and officials termed it as the beginning of a new chapter of trade between Islamabad and Kabul via the sea route.

Pakistan-Afghan trade

The Afghan transit trade through Pakistan comprises around 30 per cent of the country’s total trade, according to officials. During the eight-month period starting from July 2019 and continuing till February 2020, bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan has witnessed a slight decline as compared to last year. The import from Afghanistan during this period was 1.42 per cent of the total, while the export share was 4.46 of the total.