Pakistan’s foreign policy is based on one of the friendliness and goodwill towards all nations especially neighbors and Muslim countries. Afghanistan is not only brotherly country of Pakistan but also shares common, cultural and ethnic relations. Pakistan understand that a strong, prosperous Afghanistan is the guarantee of strong and prosperous Pakistan. Building close cooperative relations with Afghanistan is a high priority of Pakistan’s foreign policy and a vital component of its vision of a “peaceful neighborhood.”
Currently Afghanistan is facing one of the worst humanitarian and economic crisis. People have no food, no medicine and their survival is at stake. U.S has frozen Afghan foreign reserves, while World Bank and IMF have blocked the Taliban’s access to financial resources.
Pakistan is urging the world powers, to engage with Taliban, lift economic sanctions, and supply Kabul with both humanitarian and economic assistance. Pakistan has the view that continued sanctions on Afghanistan and frozen of its assets will result in complete economic meltdown and will worsen humanitarian crisis.
Pakistan in not only providing humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan but has increased its bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan and giving it trade-related concessions, because the war-torn country is facing severe economic crisis.
For enhancing relations and cooperation with Afghanistan, Pakistan is taking every step to give easy access of its market to Afghan goods. Being a neighbor Afghanistan is an Important trading partners of Pakistan, and to transform excellent diplomatic and trade relations with Afghanistan, Pakistan has allowed import and export under barter trade with Afghanistan. The Barter trade initiative has been taken because of dollars shortages and due to non-existence of a banking system in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has allowed Afghan importers to buy its products in Pak-rupees and given them freedom to export any item to Pakistan to facilitate bilateral trade. Pakistan has also a plan to establish new border crossings to further facilitate commercial activities.
Pakistan’s new visa policy for Afghanistan had facilitated Afghan citizens, businessmen, students and patients and it would help improve long-term relations between the two countries.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed on multiple measures to ensure early clearance and free movement of bilateral trade traffic, improve efficiency in goods clearance. The luxury bus service is going to start between Peshawar and Jalalabad and Quetta and Kandahar soon.
Since the Taliban takeover in Kabul, Afghan exports to Pakistan have increased and Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan decreased, while sales tax on Afghan fruits is zero.
Pakistan’s development assistance to Afghanistan has increased in infrastructure projects, education, health, agriculture and capacity building of Afghan professionals. Pakistan, has setup healthcare facilities in Afghanistan including three hospitals in Kabul, Jalalabad and Logar. The other infrastructure projects of Pakistan in Afghanistan are Torkham-Jalalabad Road, Torkham-Jalalabad Additional Carriage way, 15 Weigh Bridges, donation of road construction machinery, telecom and electricity system.
The strong relations between the two countries are need of the hour, especially trade and economic relations because trade and economic relations are the main steps towards strengthening, enhancing cooperation.
Afghanistan as a landlocked country, will somehow remain dependent on Pakistan for its overseas trade. There are potentially significant opportunities for Afghan investors in Pakistan. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is another opportunity for Afghanistan which can provide infrastructure, energy and trade connectivity between the two countries. Pakistan can be a hub for Afghan trade, its time for Afghanistan to see Pakistan as a trade and economic partner, instead of looking only as a neighboring country.
Pakistan is working to improve business-friendly policies, taking effective measures for better trade mechanisms, and making effective investment policies to remove all hurdles which are in the way of bilateral trade and relations. The enhancing cooperation is a positive step towards the revival and promotion of trade between the two countries. Both countries need to make further arrangements for mutually beneficial trade relations.
Pakistan’s policy toward Afghanistan is clear and Pakistan always said stable Afghanistan is guarantee of stable Pakistan. Peace in Afghanistan not only links with Pakistan but links with region. The strong, stable and cordial relations between the two countries are the Key to Regional Development.
Mansoor Ahmed is Islamabad based Researcher and Freelancer