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Kabul, Tehran review cooperation, agree to draw up new strategy

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2020)

Iran and Afghanistan have agreed to draw up a comprehensive strategic economic document on bilateral cooperation, the head of Iran’s Customs Administration (IRICA) said.

According to Mehdi Mirashrafi, IRICA chief, “facilitating trade, exchanging customs information, solving border problems and developing transit are on the agenda of Iran and Afghanistan.” 

Speaking to journalists after a video conference with Afghan officials, Mirashrafi said: “The two sides decided to prepare a comprehensive strategic economic document, considering the determinations of the two countries for strategic cooperation.”

Tehran Times reported that on the activation of the Iran-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Tripartite Transit Corridor and the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran (KTAI) Quadripartite Corridor, Mirashrafi said: “This trend shows the serious determination of the Iranian Customs to facilitate transit through Afghanistan and connect Central Asian countries to international waters through the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.”

He also said Chabahar Port was one of the major issues discussed in the meeting.

“The port of Chabahar is an important and vital port for Afghanistan in the field of transit of goods through Iran, and accordingly, the Afghan side has demanded reducing visa fees and transit fees and reconsidering the penalties for customs violations in the transit route through Iran.”

The Chabahar seaport has been a vital development in Afghanistan’s efforts to increase connectivity with the region for trade purposes. 

The port is partly intended to provide an alternative for trade between India and Afghanistan as it is 800 kilometers closer to the border of Afghanistan than Pakistan’s Karachi port.

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Pakistan to set up markets along Afghanistan-Pakistan border

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(Last Updated On: September 18, 2020)

Pakistan has decided to establish 18 markets along the Pakistan-Iran and Pakistan-Afghanistan borders, Pakistan government said.

Pakistan’s government would establish the markets aimed at boosting trade with the two countries and preventing the menace of smuggling.

The decision was made during a high-level meeting chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, Khan’s office said in a statement.

“The meeting was told that twelve border markets will be established on the Pak-Afghan border while six border markets will be established on the Pak-Iran border,” the statement read.

“The Prime Minister has approved the establishment of two border market in Balochistan Province and one border market in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a pilot project which will be completed and activated by February.”

Imran Khan’s Office noted that the decision to take more effective measures regarding the prevention of smuggling through borders

Talking about the establishment of border markets, the Prime Minister said that the establishment of markets where the population on border areas, especially youth, will get better business and trade opportunities, will come after fencing on the borders, the statement added.

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Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan drop by 43.6% in July

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(Last Updated On: September 14, 2020)

Pakistan’s exports of goods and services to Afghanistan dropped by 43.61 percent in July against the same period last year, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reported. 

According to Pakistan’s The Nation, exports totaled $61.25 million this July against exports to the value of $108.64 last year. 

Imported products from Afghanistan also dropped by 56.7 percent from $9.7 million last July to $4.2 million this year. 

SBP also reported an overall decline in exports to other countries in the same period. In July exports dropped by 14.57 percent from $2.2 billion to $1.89 billion. 

Much of this could be attributed to the closure of all Pakistan’s borders in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Only in June did Pakistan start opening borders again with Afghanistan. 

Three key trade routes — Chaman, Torkham, and Ghulam Khan border crossings opened but had to deal with major backlogs. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan share 18 crossing points. The most commonly used ones are Torkham and Chaman.

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India launches ‘air travel bubble’ with Afghanistan during pandemic

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(Last Updated On: September 8, 2020)

India has established an air transport bubble with Afghanistan enabling Indian airlines and Afghanistan’s Ariana Airline to operate services between the two countries. 

In an advisory posted on their website Tuesday, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation stated there will however be some restrictions. 

Those who will be able to fly to India from Afghanistan include Indians stranded in Afghanistan, all Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders in possession of Afghanistan passports and foreigners, including diplomats, holding valid visas issued by an Indian Mission under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30 June 2020. 

From India to Afghanistan, passengers allowed to travel are Afghan nationals/residents and foreign nationals in possession of a valid Afghan visa. 

Secondly, any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from Afghanistan and destined for the country will be allowed to travel. 

However, the advisory stated that the onus will also be on airlines to ensure there are no travel restrictions for Indian nationals to enter Afghanistan before issuing a ticket or boarding pass. 

Transport or travel bubbles are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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