With the launch of direct flights connecting New Delhi with Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat, following the Indo-Afghan trade show and Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah’s visit to India, the India-Afghan partnership look set to get new wings. While security and trade cooperation remain high on the agenda, connectivity is a key concern and this recent announcement will give a major boost to people-to-people connect between the two nations.
The private airlines, owned by the Kamgar Group, will operate twice a week from the two cities. A full inaugural flight from MaulanaJalalludinBalkhi airport inMazar-e-Sharif to Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, is a good sign of the success of this initiative. At the joint inauguration event attended by Dr. Mohammad Afzal Hadeed, chairman of the Provincial Council of Balkh Province, India’s Consul General Manjish Grover expressed his hopes that the new flight service will ease trade and travel between northern Afghanistan and India.
Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat are not only historical cities, butare also strategically located. As the capital of the Balkh province, Mazar-e-Sharif is the regional hub of Northern Afghanistan lying close to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It is also a major tourist destination because of its famous shrines and archaeological sites. Herat is Afghanistan’s third largest city after Mazar-e-Sharif and is the gateway to Iran and Turkmenistan.
The flight services have been a longstanding demand, especially of Afghans travelling to India for medical treatment and the business community. This comes after the launch of the air freight corridor between India and Afghanistan, which seeks to overcome Pakistan’s roadblocks in trade connectivity. Mr. Abdullah, during his visit to India, stressed on the need for increased connectivity by expressing a determination to strengthen the air freight corridor and also welcomed the steps being taken to operationalise the Chabahar port, including the forthcoming supply of wheat to Afghanistan from October 2017. The flight services look set to be an important milestone in Indo-Afghan friendship ties.
(PrithaMahanti contributed inputs for this article)
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