Pakistan Threatens To Close Vital Afghan Trade Corridor With India

Amid escalating tensions between Islamabad and Kabul, Pakistan's defense minister has warned Afghanistan's Taliban rulers that his country could block a corridor it provides to allow trade with India.
Afghan Trade Corridor:- Amid escalating tensions between Islamabad and Kabul, Pakistan's defense minister has warned Afghanistan's Taliban rulers that his country could block a corridor it provides to allow trade with India.[RFE/RL]
Afghan Trade Corridor:- Amid escalating tensions between Islamabad and Kabul, Pakistan's defense minister has warned Afghanistan's Taliban rulers that his country could block a corridor it provides to allow trade with India.[RFE/RL]

Afghan Trade Corridor:- Amid escalating tensions between Islamabad and Kabul, Pakistan's defense minister has warned Afghanistan's Taliban rulers that his country could block a corridor it provides to allow trade with India.

Khwaja Asif said that Islamabad could block access to its western neighbor Afghanistan through its territory that allows goods to flow into its eastern neighbor India if the Taliban government fails to rein in the Pakistani Taliban, formally known as the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

"If Afghanistan treats us like an enemy, then why should we give them a trade corridor?" Asif told Voice of America on March 20.

Tensions between Islamabad and Kabul are running high after the Taliban said it retaliated against Pakistani air strikes that killed eight people, including two children, on March 18. Over the past two decades, Islamabad has repeatedly closed trade routes and border crossings with Afghanistan to pressure Kabul whenever tensions spiked in their bilateral relations.

Islamabad said it targeted a hideout of the TTP, which it blames for mounting attacks on its forces. Pakistan says the TTP is using the Afghan side of the mountainous border region to launch such strikes.

The corridor allowing goods to flow between Afghanistan and India has become an important economic pillar for Kabul.

According to the World Bank, Kabul's trade with India increased 43 percent to $570 million last year, while its trade with Islamabad has shrunk from more than $4 billion a decade ago to less than $1 billion.

Given the growing importance of the corridor, threats of a possible blockade was met with anger and resentment in Afghanistan.

"Their policy has always been harmful to Afghanistan," Ahmad Khan Ander, an Afghan military expert, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. "[Pakistan] has never been a friend of Afghanistan."

Ghaus Janbaz, an international relations expert, told Radio Azadi that Islamabad wants to shift the blame to Afghanistan instead of focusing on its domestic crises.

"[The Pakistani government] wants to show that the violence is coming from elsewhere, when all the violence is coming from within Pakistan," he said.

As part of pressuring the Taliban, Pakistan is set to force some 850,000 documented Afghan refugees back to their country next month if they don't leave voluntarily.

According to reports in Pakistani media, the expulsions, the latest in an ongoing campaign of forced deportations, are scheduled to begin on April 15. RFE/RL/SP

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