by Neelapu Shanti

The expansion of the air corridor program marks significant importance for Afghanistan’s economic development. The implementation of the first air freight initiative between Afghanistan and India in 2017 has given major impetus to increase its footprint to other countries namely; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Dubai. Focusing in on the economic improvement of Afghanistan, the air corridor program has set progressive benchmark in a span of one year. Through a wider lens the possibilities and opportunities can be determined the effectiveness of the air corridor program. The air corridor program has certainly produced positive development results which have broadened its horizon to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan and Dubai air freight will start next month. It is also important to understand Afghanistan’s initiative to attain peace and stability but it is essential to know the positive outcome that has been achieved through economic development initiatives like the air freight program which is an indispensable and pertinent factor for the country’s growth. Recently air freight program between Jeddah and Afghanistan was launched in June this year. 

Afghanistan exploring Markets through Air Freight program

The driving imperative of Afghanistan is to establish self-sustaining system by reinforcing government’s capabilities in achieving broad policy goals for raising country’s economy and human development. The idea of air corridor program was conceived in order to attain intended results of reaching global market despite Afghanistan’s challenge being landlocked. Prolonged instability has affected on the fundamental conditions of Afghanistan and against this backdrop it is difficult for the country to work on development. Nevertheless, Afghanistan is seeking progressive initiatives to attribute for growth. Air corridor program is one of the alternative ways for Afghanistan to access global markets. The effectiveness of this project can be examined by its expansion with other five countries. It is a major breakthrough for Afghanistan for expanding trade links after the success of Kabul-Delhi and Kabul Mumbai air corridor program which is running successfully by elevating exports up to 44 percent so far. Kabul-Amritsar air cargo will commence from August this year. In a latest development Afghanistan will be freighting goods if it is more than 35 tons. Afghanistan’s air corridor program has induced lot of hope to increase trade between the regional countries especially connecting with Central Asia, South Asia and beyond. 

The success of the air corridor program is the result of the recent two-day exhibition titled ‘Made in Afghanistan: Nature’s Best’, which was organised by Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) held on 13-14 July in New Delhi brought together more than 50 Afghan export firms and 500 Indian traders to explore the agricultural market in India and beyond for a significant economic progress. . Since decades Afghanistan and India have built a strong foundation for multifaceted strategic partnership. The deepened relation of the two nations from economic development, capacity building programs, investments, and joint effort has enhanced the shared goals of both the countries and contributed in supporting Afghanistan to emerge as a prosperous country. Through this exhibition more than 70 million USD trade agreements were signed between Afghan and Indian traders.

‘Passage to prosperity’ exhibition held last year was a great success with 250 million USD trade exchanged between Afghanistan and India. The upcoming ‘Passage to Exhibition’ to be held this year in Mumbai will be a major event.

The recent operationalisation of Kabul-Jeddah air cargo in June this year has been of great significance for Afghanistan which will as expected improve the trade basket that accounts to 15 million USD between the two nations currently. The accentuation of Afghanistan’s exports with India, Turkey and Kazakhstan stood to 2,600 tons through air corridor route. Further, Afghanistan will be launching an air cargo route with European countries and Dubai for which the process is underway. The government of Afghanistan emphasised on the economic development of Afghanistan to become self- reliant in an imposed instability situation in the country. Afghanistan’s economic growth has accounted to 2.6 percent in 2017 and attracted remarkable investment of 1.6 billion USD in different sectors. The export volume stood at 784 million USD which is increased to 27.7 percent in 2017. A country’s march towards modernisation can be marked through its progression on economic empowerment. Referring to the current trend of development it can be stated that Afghanistan is undergoing significant economic transformations. Afghanistan’s foreign policy reflects strengthening perspectives of self-reliance and economic welfare through cooperation with effective engagement in the region. 

Highlighting Positivity of Afghanistan’s Connectivity in the Region 

Afghanistan’s economic improvement could be advanced by robust regional cooperation’s like the air corridor initiative has set with effective results for the growth of the country. Afghanistan’s connectivity challenges have obstructed the country in trading with the regional countries but air corridor has accelerated the impeded hurdle since the operationalisation of air corridor between Afghanistan and India around 125 flights have been exchanged to export fresh and dried fruits, Pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, spices. India remains close market of Afghanistan so far more than 2500 metric tons of fresh and dried fruits have been exported from Afghanistan to India through air freight cargo. Trade through air cargo between Afghanistan and India is 230-357 million USD in 2016-17. An agreement of Joint Chamber of Commerce between Afghanistan and India signed in 2015 need to be operationalised to enhance trade of the two nations. 

Afghanistan’s trade and transit corridors like Asian International Railway Transport Corridor (Atamyrat-Aqina), Chabahar port project and Lapis Lazuli hopes to be promising in the near future. The Afghan government has also signed transportation infrastructure improvement agreement with Uzbekistan, bilateral transport agreement with Turkmenistan, and trilateral transport agreements with China and Tajikistan. Afghanistan’s new airport’s airports were opened in Nimruz, Bamiyan, and Farah, and several airport expansion projects were completed in Kunduz, Daykundi, Zabul, Kabul, and Kandahar. Sixty-three road and railway line construction projects have been completed in Afghanistan and in addition the Dushi-Bamiyan road was also inaugurated. 

Afghanistan’s transit route was heavily relied on Pakistan for international trade, however, air corridor brought in hope for the despair. The design and strategy of air corridor program is catering to increase the production and strengthen supply chains and this has resulted in expanding businesses. Air cargo has eased in doing business for Afghanistan. Afghanistan has emphasised on the development in all the key areas with the design and implementation of the projects to build capacities. 

Afghanistan’s foreign policy reflects on strengthening economic prosperity which highlights on transforming Afghanistan as a platform for cooperation to ensure economic development in the region.