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ISLAMABAD: While India is ready to join Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), Islam­abad is reluctant to include a third country in the arrangement.

Pakistan recently turned down a suggestion of including India in transit trade agreement with Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

“We have conveyed our stance to the Afghan government in this regard,” an official of the commerce ministry told Dawn.

According to the official, inclusion of a third country in a bilateral arrangement does not make sense anyways but more so in case of India. “There is a pro-Indian lobby in Afghanistan which wants Islamabad to allow Indian goods transport via Wagah border” the trade officer said anonymously.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of Asia summit said that India was ready to join the APTTA. She said India has created facilities to receive Afghan trucks coming through Pakistan.

Indian demand for joining the treaty is based on the perception that it will allow India to export goods via Wagah border to Afghanistan but for obvious reasons Islamabad is not inclined to grant the facility at the movement.

As an alternative India is investing in port project at Chabahar in Iran for access to Afghanistan market but Wagah is the most economical route for it for exports to Afghanistan and onward to Central Asian States.

With the support of Asian Development Bank, Pak­istan has initiated a project to establish three land port authorities at Wagah, Landi Kotal and Chaman border points.

Once these land ports are established, trade on land route will be facilitated, the official in the commerce ministry said.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar received Owen Jenkins, British Prime Minister’s Special Rep­resentative on Afghanistan-Pakistan affairs, here on Wednesday.

Jenkins was accompanied by British High Com­missioner, Philip Barton and Head of UK’s Department for International Develop­ment (DFID) Joanna Reid.

During the meeting, they expressed unanimity of views on efforts for peace and development in Afghanistan which would help achieve stability and progress in the whole region.

They also agreed that the Asia Conference would play a contributing role towards achieving this objective.

The visiting team appreciated the progress Pakistan and Afghanistan have made in the CASA-1000 energy project.

The finance minister shared with Jenkins the details of important developments in the Pakistan-Afghanistan economic cooperation. He apprised Jenkins of the headway made during the recently concluded Joint Economic Commission meeting, especially in the realm of trade facilitation.

He said that Pakistan has undertaken Kabul-Jalalabad highway project which is progressing well as it wants to promote regional connectivity with Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2015