New Delhi, June 16, 2017: The long-awaited India-Afghan air freight corridor will take off in the next few days, the government said on Friday.
“The freight corridor between India and Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a reality,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay told the weekly media briefing here.
The first Indian flight, which will fly over the Pakistani airspace like civilian planes do, will take off either this weekend or early next week, he said, adding that to start with it could be a monthly flight or fortnightly.
The idea is not to start a daily flight at the moment, Baglay said, adding there are difficulties in reaching Kabul by road.
Standard Operating Procedures will be in force, he said.
It will carry Indian products to Afghanistan and vice versa, Baglay added.
The air corridor plan has long been in the making since there are difficulties in reaching Kabul by road. (IANS)
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have “great potential” and they could work together at a “practical level”.
“I think, a great potential… India and China combined are doing more compassionate work… At a practical level also. Imagine two billion people working together,” he told reporters here after inaugurating Smile Foundation’s initiative, The World of Children.
The spiritual leader, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959, said neither country had the “ability to destroy the other”.
“Whether you like it or not, you have to live side by side,” he said.
Underlining the ancient spiritual connection between the two countries, he said Chinese Buddhist Hsuan Tsang visited Nalanda (now in Bihar) and brought Nalanda Buddhist traditions to China.
“All thinkers of Nalanda are Indian. So Nalanda’s tradition is India’s tradition,” he said.
The Nalanda traditions had turned Tibetans, who were warriors, into more compassionate, peaceful and non-violent nation, he said.
“So sometimes in Delhi, teasing my Indian friend, (I say) if Tibet still remained in the previous way of life, like Mongols, Chinese invasion may not have taken place,” the Dalai Lama said in a lighter vein.
He said nobody in the world wanted violence but it was happening “because our minds are dominated by destructive emotions due to short-sightedness”.
“Nobody wants problems. Yet, many problems are our own creation.”
The Dalai Lama said the existing modern education was oriented to material values. India can take lead in improving the education system by combining modern education with ancient knowledge, he said. (IANS)
Afghanistan has received an inaugural consignment of wheat from India through an Iranian port, opening a new trade and transit route for the landlocked nation that bypasses neighboring Pakistan.
The strategic sea route, officials say, will help improve trade and transit connectivity between Kabul and New Delhi.
It will also potentially give India access to Central Asian markets through Afghanistan, because rival Pakistan does not allow Indian goods to be transported through its territory .
The shipment of almost 15,000 tons of wheat dispatched from India’s western port of Kandla on October 29 reached the Iranian port of Chabahar on November 1. It was then loaded on trucks and brought by road to the Afghan province of Nimroz, which borders Iran.
Speaking at a special ceremony to receive the historic consignment Saturday in the border town of Zaranj, India’s ambassador to Kabul, Manpreet Vohra, said the shipment has demonstrated the viability of the new route. He added that India, Afghanistan and Iran agreed to operationalize the Chabahar port only a year-and-a-half ago.
“The ease and the speed with which this project is already working is evident from the fact that as we are receiving the first trucks of wheat here in Zaranj, the second ship from Kandla has already docked in Chabahar,” Vohra announced.
He said there will be seven shipments between now and February and a total of 110,000 tons of wheat will come to Afghanistan through Chabahar. Vohra added the shipments are part of a promised 1.1 million tons of wheat as India’s “gift” to Afghanistan out of which 700,000 has already been sent to the country.
India is investing $500 million in Chabahar port to build new terminals, cargo berths and connecting roads, as well as rail lines.
The Indian shipment arrived in Afghanistan days after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a visit to New Delhi, allayed concerns the Trump administration’s tough stand on Iran could pose a fresh stumbling block to India’s plans to develop the strategic Iranian port as a regional transit hub.
The Indian ambassador also took a swipe at Pakistan, though he did not name the rival country.
“The logic of finding easy connectivity, assured connectivity for Afghanistan is also because you have not had the benefit despite being a landlocked country of having easy access to international markets. We all know that a particular neighbor of yours to the east has often placed restrictions on your transit rights,” Vohra noted.
The shortest and most cost effective land routes between India and Afghanistan lie through Pakistan.
But due to long-running bilateral territorial disputes between India and Pakistan, Afghanistan and India are not allowed to do two-way trade through Pakistani territory. Kabul, however, is allowed to send only a limited amount of perishable goods through Pakistani territory to India.
“We are confident that with the cooperation, particularly of the government of Iran, this route now from Chabahar to Afghanistan will not see any arbitrary closure of gates, any unilateral decisions to stop your imports and exports, and this will provide you guaranteed access to the sea,” vowed Vohra.
Pakistan also allows Afghanistan to use its southern port of Karachi for transit and trade activities. However, Afghan officials and traders are increasingly complaining that authorities in Pakistan routinely indulge in unannounced trade restrictions and frequent closure of border crossings, which has undermined trade activities.
“With the opening of Chabahar Port, Afghanistan will no longer be dependent on Karachi Port,” provincial governor Mohammad Samiullah said while addressing the gathering. The economic activity, he said, will create job opportunities and bring billions of dollars in revenue to Afghanistan, Iran and India.
Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan have also plunged to new lows in recent years over mutual allegations of sponsoring terrorism against each other’s soils.
In its bid to enhance economic connectivity with Afghanistan, India also opened an air freight corridor in June this year to provide greater access for Afghan goods to the Indian market.
Pakistani officials, however, have dismissed suggestions the direct trade connectivity between India and Afghanistan is a matter of concern for Islamabad.
“It is our consistent position that Afghanistan as a landlocked country has a right of transit access through any neighboring country according to its needs,” said Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a nearly 2,600 kilometer largely porous border. However, Islamabad has lately begun construction of a fence and tightened monitoring of movements at regular border crossings between the two countries, saying terrorist attacks in Pakistan are being plotted on the Afghan side of the border. VOA