Taliban takeover impacts presence of Afghan businessmen at trade fair

Dry fruits traders from Afghanistan at the India International Trade Fair in Pragati Maidan.   | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

Hosting traders from various countries, including Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Sri Lanka, the India International Trade Fair (IITF) is back in Delhi with its 40th edition after a year-long gap induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, for traders from Afghanistan, the crisis back home since the Taliban’s takeover in August has resulted in limited representation at this year’s fair. Dry fruit traders from the country said that a ‘massive dip’ in footfall was observed during the ongoing fair and that nonavailability of direct flights from Delhi to Kabul resulted in delay in procuring stocks.

Air routes shut

Roman Khan, 21, a dry fruit trader based in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, said stocks had to be transported through the Wagah border by road.

“Our prices have also increased and the reasons behind this are the financial strain due to COVID-19 and the taxes that we have to pay for getting stocks from Afghanistan using road options. The Taliban’s law is very harsh, especially towards women, and their takeover has impacted business with air routes to India shut. While some people are content with their law, there are many who want to leave Afghanistan,” said Mr. Khan, whose family moved from Kabul to Delhi over a decade ago.

Another dry fruit trader from the country, seconding Mr. Khan, said the closure of air routes was ‘the reason why many traders from other industries could not participate’ in this year’s fair.

Visa hassle

He added, “There are no carpet traders here because either most of them can’t get a visa or they aren’t able to get their stocks. Close to 10 or 12 traders are present at this year’s fair. In our case, we have to wait for over a week to get dry fruit stocks because it is sent via Pakistan and then through the Wagah border. Air cargo was an option that helped cut down this massive delay, which has become a recurring issue. There is no doubt that the Taliban’s takeover has hit our business.”

However, according to Siddiqullah Popalzai, 38, owner of a wholesale fresh fruit and dry fruit business, “The Taliban is trying to promote our business”.

Mr. Popalzai, who arrived in Delhi a week before the Taliban’s takeover on August 15, said while there was panic during the first week of the takeover, everything returned to normal thereafter.

“Everything returned to normal during the second week, we had our fresh fruit stocks released from Kabul to Wagah border. I have been coming to India for over a decade for trade. COVID restrictions have almost led to a 70% dip in crowd at this year’s IIFT as compared to the previous year. We hope the air cargo services resume soon. The Taliban Government is yet to be accepted by many countries and we hope that too changes soon,” said Mr. Popalzai, who is yet to return to Afghanistan.

The IIFT 2021, which will be held till November 27, has close to 3,000 exhibitors from India and abroad, foreign traders from other countries also voiced similar concerns with most stating that there was a decline in footfall.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 1:11:20 PM |

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