South Asia

Afghanistan and Pakistan agree key trade agreement

Afghan Trade Minister Anwar Ul Haq Ahadi (left) sakes hands with his Pakistani counterpart Makdoom Admin Fahin as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks on in Islamabad. Photo: 18 July 2010
Image caption The agreement has been described as "historic"

Afghanistan and Pakistan have signed a key trade agreement allowing Afghan lorries to use a land route through Pakistan to carry goods to India.

The deal also gives landlocked Afghanistan access to Pakistani ports to boost its trade with other nations.

Correspondents say the deal marks a real effort to ease tensions between the two neighbours.

The accord was signed during the visit to the region by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In an interview with the BBC's Kim Ghattas in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, Mrs Clinton spoke of the need to bring the two countries closer together.

She also said said Washington wanted Pakistan to do more to tackle Islamist militants.

'Signal'

The deal between Afghanistan and Pakistan was signed by the trade ministers at a ceremony in Islamabad.

Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, who played a key role in the difficult talks, described the agreement as "historic".

The pact allows Afghan lorries to transport goods to India along a sensitive Pakistani land route through the Wagah border crossing.

There are certain to be many problems with the implementation of the accord, the BBC's Lyse Doucet in Kabul says.

But Mr Zakhilwal said it was a signal that relations with Pakistan were improving on a rapid scale, setting a goal for other neighbours.

Mistrust between Pakistan and neighbouring India still runs too deep to allow the deal to include Indian goods going to Afghanistan, our correspondent says.

She adds that the presence of Mrs Clinton in Islamabad clearly helped to clinch the trade deal.

All sides know that if there is to be greater co-operation on tackling a growing Taliban insurgency, including sanctuaries in Pakistan, relations have to start improving on all fronts, our correspondent says.

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