India and Afghanistan on Monday established their first air freight corridor to circumvent challenges faced because of lack of land transit through Pakistan. A cargo flight landed from Kabul to New Delhi on Monday, which was received by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Minister of State (External Affairs) M J Akbar, among others.
The decision to establish this corridor was taken in a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in September 2016, and it is expected to give a fillip to trade between the two countries and give landlocked Afghanistan a greater access to markets in India.
Modi said the direct (air freight) connectivity between India and Afghanistan will “usher prosperity”. “I thank President @ashrafghani for the initiative,” he tweeted. The flight was flagged off by Ghani in the presence of several Afghan ministers and India’s ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra.
In Delhi, the flight, carrying 60 tonnes of cargo, mostly asafoetida (hing), arrived Monday afternoon. “We hope to extend air cargo flights between India and Afghanistan to other cities . These routes and corridors are aimed at providing sea, land and air access route for Afghanistan to regional and global markets in South Asia and beyond,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Currently, major exports from India to Afghanistan are filaments, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, pharmaceutical products, cereals, man-made staple fibres, tobacco products, dairy and poultry products, coffee, tea, meat and spices. Major imports from Afghanistan to India are fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, vegetables, oil seeds, precious, semi-precious stones, etc.
“India remains committed to assist Afghanistan in all possible ways in its political, security and economic transitions to ensure emergence of a sovereign, united, democratic, pluralistic, stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in the statement.
India has been closely working with Afghanistan to create alternate and reliable access routes for the landlocked country. In January 2015, India had announced its decision to allow Afghan trucks to enter the Indian territory through Attari land check-post for offloading and loading goods to and from Afghanistan.