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First flight marks new air cargo link between Afghanistan and India

Reuters  |  KABUL 

By Mirwais Harooni

(Reuters) - An aircraft packed with 60 tons of plants with medicinal uses marked the opening of the first air corridor between and on Monday.

The cargo, worth about $5 million dollars, was the first in what officials from the two countries hope will be many flights allowing and Indian companies to bypass Pakistan, which strictly limits the shipment of goods by land between and and is often involved in border disputes with them.

"Our aim is to change to an exporter country," President Ashraf Ghani said at a ceremony marking the inaugural flight.

"As long as we are not an exporter country, then poverty and instability will not be eliminated."

The service aims to improve landlocked Afghanistan's links to markets abroad and boost the growth prospects of its agricultural and carpet industries while it battles a deadly Taliban insurgency, Indian officials have said.

"We will continue to assist you in various ways as this corridor expands and grows into a network of flights as per demand of the market," India's ambassador to Afghanistan, Manpreet Vohra, told Ghani.

"There are bound to be some teething problems in any major initiatives such as this but my embassy and my government is committed to working together with your team to resolve all issues that may pop up from time to time."

depends on the Pakistani port of Karachi for its foreign trade. It is allowed to send a limited amount of goods overland through Pakistan into India, but imports from are not allowed along this route.

Border crossings are often closed as and Pakistani forces clash over the disputed border, and farmers have complained of fruit and other produce rotting without other options for shipping.

Next week, a second flight to is scheduled to depart from the southern city of Kandahar, carrying 40 tons of dried fruit.

(Writing by Josh Smith; editing by Robert Birsel)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)