The first aircraft to fly in the Afghan-India air cargo corridor arrived in New Delhi on Monday packed with 60 tonnes of Afghan plants of medicinal uses, worth about $50 million, marking the beginning of a new initiative in bilateral trade between the two countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the first Air Freight Corridor flight from Kabul to India and thanked Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for the initiative.
''Happy to welcome the first Air Freight Corridor flight from Kabul...Direct connectivity between India and Afghanistan will usher prosperity. I thank President Ashraf Ghani for the initiative'', the prime minister said.
A second flight carrying 40 tonnes of dried fruits to India is scheduled to depart from the southern city of Kandahar next week.
Officials from the two countries hope to follow this up with many such flights allowing Afghan and Indian companies to bypass the land route through Pakistan, which affects shipment of goods as they pass through dangerous interiors and conflict-ridden borders.
"Our aim is to change Afghanistan to an exporter country," Afghan 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 cargo 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 cargo 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."
Afghanistan depends on the Pakistani port of Karachi for its foreign trade. Pakistan allows Afghanistan to send a limited amount of goods overland through Pakistan into India, but does not allow any imports from India along this route.
Also, border crossings often remain closed due to clashes between Afghan and Pakistani forces over the disputed border.
Afghan farmers often have to let their fruits and other produce rot for want of a market and other options for shipping.