US pushing Pakistan to allow passage of Afghan goods to India

Last Updated 12 January 2010, 07:15 IST

This is considered a major challenge for the US given Pakistan's reluctance in this regard.
"One challenge is making sure that we can continue to promote exports for Afghanistan, particularly to India. That is their main customer," US Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters in a teleconference from Kabul.

This is the first trip of a US Agriculture Secretary to Afghanistan in the recent past and his main effort is to give a fresh impetus to Afghanistan's agricultural economy.

Vilsack said export of Afghan agricultural products to India needs a transit agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"That requires working in a trilateral way with the Pakistanis and the Afghans to try to develop an agreement in which Afghan groups can freely travel across Pakistan to India. We hope to be able to conclude those agreements in the very near future," Vilsack said.

The agreement, according to a memorandum of understanding signed between the foreign ministers of two countries last year was to be reached by December 2009 but according to Richard Holbrooke, Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, two contentious issues are holding the agreement.

However, he did not elaborate on it at a press conference last week.
Vilsack said in the long-run stabilisation and redevelopment of Afghanistan's agriculture sector is what will create opportunity.
"It is what will create jobs," he argued.
The Agriculture Secretary said Afghanistan recently exported its first batch of apples to India.
"They're very excited about the fact that they just sent a significant amount of exports to India of apples," he said.
"There's a major effort by the ministry to focus on almonds and on pomegranates and on saffron because they think that they have markets -- they have the capacity to produce those crops, and they have markets in India, in particular, that would be anxious to use -- to buy those crops," he said.

(Published 12 January 2010, 07:15 IST)

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