A private trader in India has exported commercial goods to landlocked Uzbekistan for the first time through Pakistan and Taliban-governed Afghanistan in landmark trade activity linking the four countries.
Trucks carrying 140 tons of cargo, mostly Indian sugar, departed Kabul on Wednesday for the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, a spokesperson for the Taliban's Ministry of Industry and Commerce said.
Maulana Zaheer told VOA the shipment arrived in the Afghan capital a day earlier from Pakistan via the Torkham border crossing between the countries. The ministry organized a special ceremony to facilitate the transit of the Indian goods, hailing it as a major step toward turning Afghanistan into a key trade link between Central and South Asia.
The commercial cargo originated from Mumbai, India, and traveled through the Karachi seaport in Pakistan earlier this month before being trucked to its Uzbek importer under a recently inked bilateral transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, a Pakistani official told VOA.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed the agreement along with several other documents during his two-day official visit to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, in early March.
The Pakistani official emphasized that the Uzbekistan-bound Indian commercial consignment was a privately arranged activity under the agreement and had no government involvement from any of the four countries.
"It will now become a regular activity, and Uzbekistan will be able to import goods from anywhere through Pakistani seaports," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Taliban authorities are bound to facilitate the trade activity because Uzbekistan, like landlocked Afghanistan, also has rights to access Pakistani ports to conduct international trade, the official added.
Islamabad allows Kabul to use its ports and land and air routes to conduct trade with other countries under a long-running bilateral arrangement known as the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
Under APTTA, Afghan traders are allowed to export their goods to India through Pakistani land, air and sea routes, but they can import Indian goods only through seaports because of strained ties between Islamabad and New Delhi.
However, Pakistan recently allowed India to use its land routes to transport 50,000 tons of wheat that New Delhi had donated in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, where millions of people face acute hunger.