Islamabad: Pakistan has turned down an Afghan proposal for a throughway to India via Wagah border, showing that mutual distrust was holding back progress on key trade talks between the two neighbours.
During the 10th session of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission at Islamabad on Monday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his Afghan counterpart Eklil Ahmad Hakimi could only agree on a new framework to complete already agreed upon bilateral economic goals without achieving a breakthrough on border access, the Express Tribune reported.
Officials in the Economic Affairs Division said Kabul had sought access to New Delhi for its trucks via the Wagah-Attari border crossing. But Islamabad denied the request, citing security issues.
In response, Afghanistan declined Pakistan's request for access to Tajikistan's border.
Pakistan also turned down Afghanistan's requests to allow its trucks to load cargo as they returned from Wagah to Kabul. Under the current regulations, Afghan trucks transporting goods can only drop off their cargo at Wagah and return empty.
"We want access to South Asia and Pakistan wants access to Central Asia and we discussed how to gradually remove the bottlenecks [to achieve this shared vision]," Hakimi said during a joint press conference with Dar after the meeting.
He complained that there were gaps in the implementation of the 48-point agenda agreed between Afghanistan and Pakistan when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Islamabad.
The news conference had been delayed by an hour after the Afghan side reportedly raised last-minute objections over the language of the joint statement. This had followed from troubles over holding the JEC which had been postponed once and its duration was cut down from two days to one.
Dar also acknowledged this common objective, but noted that security issues had slowed progress on implementation of certain elements. "The security issue will remain a top priority for our agenda," he said.
He reiterated Pakistan's support for Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace talks to improve the security situation in the region. He also vowed to take forward the economic agenda of cooperation between the two countries.
The two sides also discussed a road project to expand the western route under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which would see Gwadar connect to Herat via Khuzdar.