A flight from Kabul which landed in India on Monday night was the first of many that would strengthen the economic bond between Afghanistan and India as envisaged by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in September 2016.
The flight was received at New Delhi by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday night. She was accompanied by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, MoS MEA M.J. Akbar and Afghan envoy to India Shaida Abdali.
The aircraft, which was flagged off by the Afghan President from Kabul, landed with 60 tons of cargo, mostly asafetida, or hing.
First air freight corridor flight between India & Afghanistan (Delhi-Kabul) arrived in Delhi pic.twitter.com/MnYxA8oJK2
— ANI (@ANI_news) June 19, 2017
The landing of the aircraft marked the establishment of an air freight corridor between the two countries. It is set to increase the current trade volume to $10 billion over the next five years.
“This flight has added another chapter to the connectivity that has existed since times immemorial. We hope to extend air cargo flights to other cities between India and Afghanistan,” said Gopal Bagley, spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs.
Direct connectivity between India and Afghanistan will usher prosperity. I thank President @ashrafghani for the initiative.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 19, 2017
The establishment of the corridor was important for both Afghanistan and India.
A landlocked Afghanistan depends on Pakistan for its imports. Overland trade between India and Afghanistan is at Pakistan’s mercy and control.
An air fright corridor will actually help Afghan farmers quickly export their produce, which might be perishable in nature.
This flight from Afghanistan arrived in India by flying directly over Pakistani airspace.
At a media briefing on June 19, Bagley had stated that the corridor overflies Pakistan airspace.
“It is a commercial flight and there are a lot of commercial flights which originate in India and which originate elsewhere also and they come to India also and they fly over Pakistan,” he said.
The air fright corridor is just one of the many routes to improve the trade and strategic relationship between India and Afghanistan. The other, very important path, is the construction of the Chabahar port in Iran.
The port is aimed at giving Afghanistan an alternate access to the Arabian Sea and, thereby, trade. Currently, Afghanistan relies on Karachi port.
Soon next flight will be from Kandahar with 40 tons of fresh fruits to India: ACCI pic.twitter.com/AGxLRrHDbg
— India in Afghanistan (@IndianEmbKabul) June 19, 2017
Major exports to Afghanistan from India are man-made filaments, articles of apparels & clothing accessories, pharmaceutical products, cereals, tobacco products, dairy & poultry products, coffee/tea/meat and spices. Major imports from Afghanistan to India are fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, vegetables, oil seeds, precious and semi-precious stones, etc.