Pak hampering Afghan aid efforts, says India

New Delhi, August 26:

India said today that its efforts to help rebuild Afghanistan are being hampered by Pakistan, which lies between the two countries and refuses to allow Indian aid to be shipped through its territory.

To get goods and people to Afghanistan, India must instead send its aid by sea to Iran and have it transported from there — a circuitous and more expensive route, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told reporters. India has committed about $500 million to building roads, bridges, schools and hospitals in Afghanistan, and Saran insisted Pakistan must allow Indian aid to be shipped through its territory if it’s serious about improving economic cooperation.

“Pakistan has been saying it has a role to play as a bridge between South Asia, Afghanistan, the Central Asian countries and the Gulf,” Saran said. “If Pakistan wishes to play that role then it is not logical to not permit transit for Indian trade.” India has also sent millions of tons in food aid.

Saran said allowing transportation of Indian goods and Indians though its territory will enhance economic cooperation and “make a very major contribution to establishment of peace in the region.” Saran’s comments came days before PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to Afghan capital, Kabul, the first by an Indian leader in 29 years. In Kabul, Singh is expected announce more financial help for Afghanistan.