India opens air corridor with Afghanistan but it should not simply bypass Pakistan

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/25 19:43:40

India and Afghanistan inaugurated a direct air freight corridor last week, a dedicated route designed to give a boost to trade between the two countries. This begs a question: Will India bypass Pakistan to develop trade with Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries?

The India-Afghanistan air corridor, which passes through the airspace of Pakistan, was launched on June 19 with a plane loaded with Afghan goods landing in New Delhi from Kabul. "Direct connectivity between India and Afghanistan will usher in prosperity," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on his Twitter account. India seems to have pinned high hopes on the new route.

India has also started another project to develop the Iranian port of Chabahar, with the aim of opening another direct transport route to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, according to VOA News.

All such connectivity efforts have not only signaled India's desire to more actively participate in regional economic development, but have also highlighted the country's stubborn geopolitical thinking. India has always been pushing back against the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, so its intention to create its own connectivity network appears to be a strategy to counterbalance the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - a flagship connectivity project under the B&R - especially to bypass Pakistan, which has prohibited India from transporting any goods through its territory due to their tense relationship.

It is undeniable that geopolitical issues are complicated in this region, but it would still be better for India to develop economic and trade relations with Pakistan.

From the point of view of connectivity, regardless of India's mindset behind the air freight corridor, the new route will somehow boost the development of trade relations, which will of course facilitate regional economic growth, but the big question is whether the air route is commercially viable and sustainable for trade exchange.

No matter how India is thinking, if the country really wants to participate more in regional economic development, it should not bypass Pakistan, which offers the most efficient and cost-effective land route. Regional connectivity cannot live without the cooperation between both India and Pakistan.

In this sense, the B&R has actually created the opportunity and platform for cooperation between India and Pakistan, and now we will see if India can eventually seize the opportunity.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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