A transit trade agreement in the works between Afghanistan and Pakistan is generating heat and dust here that it will allow India overland transit rights to Kabul via Wagah.

A group of 16 members of the National Assembly have submitted an adjournment motion to the Speaker, asking for a discussion on the issue in the House.

The Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, as it is known, is being worked out by diplomats in Kabul and Islamabad to give landlocked Afghanistan rights to export and import goods overland through Pakistan.

The U.S. has been strongly pushing the agreement as a measure to give a leg-up to the Afghan economy.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton oversaw the signing of the memorandum of understanding to hammer out the agreement by the Pakistan and Afghanistan foreign ministers in May 2009.

Ever since the MoU was signed, there have been loud noises in Pakistan that under U.S. patronage, the main beneficiary of this agreement would be India, and that it should be resisted tooth and nail until all problems between the two countries were resolved.

At present, India cannot send goods to Afghanistan overland through Pakistan through the Wagah border, but Afghanistan has limited transit rights to send dried fruit to India by this route.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a recent trip to Afghanistan that Washington was pressing Pakistan to allow Afghan agriculture products to pass through its territory to India.

Though he did not say if the U.S. was also pressing for transit rights to India, some months ago, the Pakistani media played up what was said to be a draft of the agreement that talks of giving "third countries" access to Afghanistan.

A remark by Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to the region, during his visit here last week that the agreement was near completion and could be signed soon has set off panic that Islamabad is about to succumb to pressure from Washington on giving India this major "concession."

At a time when India-Pakistan relations have sunk to this decade's all-time low, granting India a trade corridor to Afghanistan and beyond is seen here as unthinkable, especially when New Delhi has doggedly refused to re-engage with Islamabad after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

It has been argued that the access that India desires can be given only after the Kashmir issue is settled.

The motion demands that Pakistan clarify its stand on the agreement. It says the agreement is aimed at subverting and destabilising Pakistan by giving India transit right through Wagah. Allowing Indian trucks in Pakistan would not just pose a danger to Pakistan's security, it would also be a threat to the local transportation industry, the motion states.

More In: International | News