Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been making some questionable comments towards Pakistan ahead of his tour to New Delhi. President Ghani’s statement threatened to block Pakistan’s trade access to Central Asian States (CAS), if it did not allow Afghanistan to trade with India via the Wagah border. Whether it is merely a publicity stunt or his ‘threats’ really hold merit remains to be seen. However, it is likely that he is simply not aware of the particulars of the agreement with Afghanistan, under which India cannot send its goods to Afghanistan through Pakistan but Afghanistan can sell goods to India via Pakistan. A top Pakistani government official on Saturday snubbed these comments by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to involve India in transit trade with Afghanistan, saying it is not possible considering the heightened tensions between both neighbours.

President Ghani’s office did later tone down the original statement, implying that he had meant to say that Kabul could consider placing restrictions on Pakistani trade with CAS via Afghanistan. But the truth of the matter is that Pakistan’s trade with CAS through Afghanistan is already negligible because of the security situation. Even if the stakes were higher and it would mean a considerable loss for Pakistan, what the Afghan leader is asking for at the moment is impossible. He is seeking concession for India as Afghan trucks were already allowed to deliver their goods to them. India must prove itself worthy of such concessions and trade agreements that would benefit the region only if there is peace and stability.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had at the last Heart of Asia ministerial conference in Islamabad expressed her country’s desire to join the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA), but such agreements can only be made a reality through dialogue, which the Indian side is unwilling to do. However, there were plans to bring Tajikistan into the transit trade arrangement to make it Trilateral Transit Trade Agreement (TTTA) with the help of China, an arrangement that will not go down well with Afghanistan. But bypassing Afghanistan will give access to Central Asia that would not be otherwise possible without strings attached as reiterated by Mr. Ghani. The plans of linking China-Pakistan Economic Corridor with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is sure to attract the irk of both our neighbours and hence it is a matter of utmost importance that Pakistan looks after its best interests in matters of trade and economic gain and ensure that the CPEC is completed on time.