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8/31/04 - PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN TRADE  - 2004-08-31

Pakistan and Afghanistan are taking steps to increase trade. Meeting in Islamabad, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf agreed to improve economic relations between their countries. Mr. Karzai says Afghanistan can also be an economic bridge between Pakistan and the Central Asian republics:

“Afghanistan will be open for trade with Pakistan, and Afghanistan will be open for transit activity from Pakistan, through Afghanistan, to the Central Asians.”

Pakistan and Afghanistan are going forward with plans for a rail link that will increase their access to international markets. “To accomplish the objective,” says Pakistan Minister for Railways Ghous Buksh Mehar, both countries have “agreed to lay down a railway track of about one-hundred-three kilometers between Chaman [Pakistan] and Kandahar [Afghanistan]” through the Afghan city of Spin Boldak. Pakistani authorities are considering an Afghan request for assistance in building a small airport at Khost and a road connecting Spin Boldak to the Pakistani city of Ghulam Khan.

Afghanistan is also building a power system in cooperation with Central Asian republics, which will supply electricity to Kabul. Pakistan will also participate in the project. And discussions continue concerning the construction of a pipeline across Afghanistan that would link Pakistan to natural gas supplies in Central Asia.

“We are doing we what can in [the] rebuilding [of] war-torn Afghanistan, and we are very much hopeful that [President Karzai's] visit will further bolster these relations,” said Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri. But economic development continues to be threatened by terrorism. President Musharraf said Pakistan will take action to stop “anybody trying to carry out terrorist activities in Afghanistan.” Mr. Musharraf said, “We want durable peace and stability in Afghanistan as it is in the interest of both countries.”

The U.S. is working with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to secure the border areas so that more trade and other cooperation will become possible between the two South Asian neighbors.