Signalling that Afghanistan is upset with Pakistan over its refusal to allow direct trade with India via the Wagah border, President Ashraf Ghani says that if the deadlock continues, “We will not provide equal transit access to Central Asia [for Pakistani trucks].”
Mr. Ghani, who was in India on his first state visit, told The Hindu in an exclusive interview that it was a question of “sovereign equality”, and Pakistan must accept the “national treatment” clause agreed to in the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA), signed in 2011, which gives each country equal access up to the national boundaries of both.
At present, Pakistan allows Afghan trucks carrying goods meant for India only up to its last checkpoint at Wagah, and not to the Indian checkpoint at Attari, less than a kilometre away. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was keen on a trade agreement with Afghanistan that would include India in the APTTA. On Wednesday, Mr. Ghani met representatives of Indian chambers of commerce and leading businessmen, who expressed similar problems with land trade.
Making a strong call for India and the rest of the region to unite against the Islamic State, or Da’esh, which he said had challenged countries from “India to Russia”, Mr. Ghani said the IS threat was different from that posed by groups such as the Taliban, which wanted to “overthrow the state”. “Now the prize is not the state, it is destruction. Our territory is being made the battleground. Our people are being killed brutally to show a spectacle. We all need to mobilise as a region,” he said. He denied downplaying the threat from Pakistan-based groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, saying the “drivers have changed”.