Gauhar Zahid Malik
India is planning to operate an “strategic air corridor” as of June 15, 2017 that will apparently facilitate Indian businessmen and traders but can also be used to overfly Indian military hardware.
India has long visualized to operate an air bridge to Afghanistan to cut short its long route for its cargo and materials via Iranian Sea port of Chahbahar.
The India-Afghanistan air corridor will be run using Pakistani air space and would seriously harm Pakistan’s business and strategic interests.
The Indo-Afghan corridor plan was finalized on May 31, 2017 and it was decided that the first flight would resume from June 15th 2017. It was not clear if Pakistani Government has issued permission to India and Afghanistan to overfly and use Pakistani air space for such flights.
The CEO of Ariana Airlines was recently urged by a senior advisor to Afghan President of Afghanistan to start operation at the earliest.
Although the air corridor is meant to improve trade and business transportations but security experts are alarmed as it can also be used to transport military hardware and special services men by India.
A Pakistan businessman in Karachi, Manazoor Kaka, told Pakistan Observer that once India and Afghanistan resume their trade and economic corridor over Pakistan the cost of Indian goods would be cut by 30-40 percent and Indian goods may capture the Afghan market from Pakistani traders.
Ariana CEO Captain Nadir Omar who has recently visited India was quoted as saying that for first flight will depart Kabul for New Delhi on June 15 while the second planned flight will depart from Kandahar on June 20, 2017.
Indian government has also agreed to subsidize the Afghan traders who will only pay $0.20 per kg for exporting their goods to India while the rest will be paid by the government.
Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) office bearers have expressed fear that such measures are designed to reduce the cost of imports and exports between the two countries and would increase Indian influence in Afghan markets.