ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is mulling a trade route linking land locked Central Asian Republic of Tajikistan to warm waters of Arabian Sea via parts of Kashmir it controls.
Pakistan conveyed the decision to Tajikistan after Afghanistan showed reluctance to finalise a transit trade agreement with Islamabad over Kabul’s insistence that India be included in it.
The new initiative which will connect Pakistan to Central Asia will pass through Gilgit-Baltistan in Kashmir bypassing Afghanistan entirely.
Tajikistan is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east.
Gilgit Baltistan, a strategic part of Kashmir, is separated from Tajikistan by the narrow Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan in the south with only a distance of 14 kilometres separating them at the closest point.
Pakistani officials said Tajikistans request for inclusion into the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) a deal between China, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for facilitating transit traffic and trade has been approved.
QTTA will provides Pakistan a gateway to Central Asia by using the Karakoram Highway which links Gilgit-Baltistan to Chinas Xinjiang region as a transit corridor.
According to the reports from Dushanbe, the Central Asian state will become a formal participant once its parliament approves the move.
Inclusion in QTTA which was signed in Islamabad in 1995 will grant landlocked Tajikistan access to Pakistans ports, including Gwadar, without having to depend on Afghanistan. It will provide safe passage to traders from both Pakistan and Tajikistan.
Trade between the two countries has risen steadily from $15 million in 2011 to $90 million in 2016, and Tajikistan wants to bring the volume up to $500 million.
Up till now, Pakistani traders have had to rely on the land route through Afghanistan to access Tajikistan and other Central Asian States. Pakistan and Afghanistan had been negotiating a transit trade agreement but Kabuls insistence that India be included in the arrangement led to a deadlock in discussions.
Due to tensions with India over unrest in Indian side of Kashmir, Pakistan could not accommodate Kabuls demand. But while Afghanistans President Ashraf Ghani threatened to cut off Pakistans access to Central Asia if it did not include India in the transit deal, China revived QTTA to further tap the potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, officials said.
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