India - Afghanistan Air Freight Connection - Fact or Fiction?

Afghanistan and India - some may say that these two countries make unlikely trade partners.
It seems that the efforts of both countries to firm up trade between themselves is being somewhat hampered by India’s continued strife with Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s government is blaming Pakistan to torpedo air routes between Kabul and Delhi crossing Pakistan air space
Afghanistan’s government is blaming Pakistan to torpedo air routes between Kabul and Delhi crossing Pakistan air space

Both countries want to expand trade
Although figures show that the per-head annual income of Afghanistan’s population, even though it has increased eightfold during the past 15 years, is still below that of Haiti, Nepal or Sierra Leone in Africa.
Despite this, both Afghan and Indian governments are convinced that air freight trade between both countries could increase considerably, leading to a better GDP for Afghanistan in the future.

The problem lies with Pakistan
Well, not only! - the terror situation and military presence has put off many companies from investing or even continuing their presence in Afghanistan.
However, the trade lane India - Pakistan can only be properly served by air, and that’s where Pakistan, according to reports from Kabul and New Delhi, blocks progress.
Pakistan lies directly between both countries and until now has hampered any form of progress in allowing Indian companies any form of handling or connections through the port of Karachi to the Afghan market.

Khalid Payenda strongly backs air traffic between Afghanistan and India
Khalid Payenda strongly backs air traffic between Afghanistan and India

Is a new air route the answer?
Both Indian and Afghanistan governments have made it clear that the only way to overcome this situation is to create a new and regular air route between both countries.
This was one of the topics tabled at a conference held in Kabul during December of last year.

Afghanistan wishes to promote the export of fresh produce to India as well as trying to increase sales on exporting Afghani carpets to other regions by using Indian airports as transit areas.
The head of Afghanistan’s Finance Ministry, Khalid Payenda, is putting his cards on setting up a new air route.
India on the other hand, invests much money into trying to stabilize the Afghani economy and its relatively liberal government. This investment is mainly in the agricultural, energy and educational sectors as well as military cooperation - a factor which does not please Pakistan at all.

The idea for a new connection by air has been born, but is still one which may never get off the ground unless someone puts money on the table.
Kabul’s government does not have the means to finance this, so the ball it seems is in the Indian court.
Afghanistan, although being twice the size of Germany for example, only has four airports which offer any form of international connections.
Only two of those, Kabul and Kandahar offer commercial freight connections.
The infrastructure at both is not optimal, but sufficient in order to start up services between both countries.

The question remains as to which carrier would be interested and who will finance it?

John Mc Donagh

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