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Pakistan is willing to permit trade between Afghanistan and India via Pakistan: US Ambassador

17 September, 2018

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US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass has said that Pakistan is willing to discuss resumption of overland trade between Afghanistan and India via Pakistan.

“Pakistan approached Afghanistan earlier this year and indicated its willingness to discuss resumption of trade between Afghanistan and India through its land,” Bass told The Economic Times in an interview.

The US envoy said Pakistani government had approached Afghanistan after looking at two developments. “We have seen an increase in exports from Afghanistan to India [through air cargo] … it is obviously one part of the export strategy but it is an important part … and I think part of the reason why, in addition to the economic relationship between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, a couple of months ago for the first time the Pakistani government expressed a willingness to start talking with its Afghan counterparts for parameters to enabling trade between India and Afghanistan through Pakistan,” he said during the interview on the sidelines of India-Afghanistan Trade and Investment show held in Mumbai.

Bass said a political settlement in Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s ‘long-term interest’. “Increased trade in both directions, increased connectivity between central and south Asia through Afghanistan – these are all missed opportunities if Pakistan has its sole focus on perpetuating the status quo,” he said.

He acknowledged that the Indian government had brought up the issue of US sanctions on Iran and how it would impact Chabahar port in Iran when US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis were in India last week. He said the Indian government in the discussions with the two US officials conveyed India’s perspectives on the importance of Chabahar as a means to expand bilateral trade and help improve Afghanistan’s connectivity with South Asia.

“We are processing and evaluating how best to re-impose sanctions on Iran, with the Iranian regime’s malevolent behaviour and its activities in destabilising its neighbours. My government is still thinking through how Chabahar factors in the re-imposition of the toughest sanctions that we believe need to be put in place to hold the Iranian government accountable for its actions,” Bass said, adding the matter is “still very much under discussion and consideration and review as per the policy process in Washington.”

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