The closure of Pakistan’s airspace to commercial flights between Kabul and New Delhi has decreased Afghanistan’s exports to India by 30 percent, an official of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), a key stakeholder of the private sector, said on Saturday.
Afghanistan exports dry fruit, vegetables, fresh fruit, carpets and handicrafts to India, according to officials.
Pakistan closed its airspace to all commercial flights late in February after escalating tensions with India. The airspace was opened to some certain flights but it is yet to be opened for Afghan flights en route to India.
Afghan airliners are using Iran and China routes for Kabul-Delhi flights which according to airline companies is expensive and time-consuming.
Mir Zaman Popal, head of ACCI’s exports department said Afghan farmers and investors will bear the brunt of the airspace closure if it remains closed during the vegetable and fruit harvesting season.
“Closure of Pakistan’s airspace to Afghan flights is a serious matter and we know that the challenges will increase if the situation prevails,” Popal said.
Last month, Pakistan said its airspace on its eastern border with India will remain closed until June 14.
While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan promised President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the 14th summit of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia to resolve the airspace problem, but so far, nothing has happened in this regard.
A spokesman of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Samir Rasa, said the country’s exports through air corridors will increase this year, but he did not comment on airspace problem.
Critics said the Afghan government should invest in land trade routes besides its efforts to establish more air routes between Afghanistan and other countries.