Sunday, 16 December, 2018

India starts trade route to Afghanistan via Iran

India Afghanistan Iran jointly flag-off first wheat consignment to Afghanistan India starts trade route to Afghanistan via Iran
Melinda Barton | 30 October, 2017, 08:23

Indian officials described it as a landmark moment that will pave the way for operationalisation of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan.

India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday that the shipment marked the convergence among India, Afghanistan and Iran to spur an unhindered flow of commerce and trade throughout the region.

India will donate 1.1 million tonnes of wheat every year to Afghanistan for the next three years as part of Indian initiative to mitigate poverty in Afghanistan.

In a significant move, Ms Swaraj also thanked Iran, and said: "At the same time, we are thankful to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for providing assistance in facilitating the movement of this gift through Chabahar Port".

India operationalised the Chabahar port in Iran of Sunday, sending the first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. Although the Indian consignment of wheat will be taken by trucks to Afghanistan from Chabahar, India, Iran, and Afghanistan eventually intend to use a rail corridor from Chabahar to Zahedan, close to the Afghan border, that has been co-financed by Teheran and New Delhi and built by India's Ircon at the cost of more than a billion dollars.

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Chabahar port lies outside the Persian Gulf on the Gulf of Oman and can be easily accessed from India's western coast. Prime Minister Modi was among those who tweeted his "congratulations to Afghanistan& Iran on Indian wheat shipment being flagged off from Kandla to Afghanistan through Chabahar".

In June, India and Afghanistan had launched an air freight corridor between the two countries to boost trade as Pakistan has been refusing land transit access through its territory.

The use of Chabahar port is seen as a major boost to India's efforts to connect with Central Asia and Russian Federation, and it could facilitate Indian imports of iron ore, sugar and rice as well as crude oil from Iran.

During his visit to India last week, USA secretary of state Rex Tillerson had remained non-committal when asked whether Indian and Afghan interests in Gawadar would be at risk, maintaining that it was not Washington's objective to interfere with agreements that are in place to promote the economic development of allies. It sees no role by India in Afghanistan.

She added: "Last year in May, when our leaders met in Tehran, they jointly took the decision to establish an global transport and transit corridor between India, Afghanistan and Iran".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the development as a "new chapter" in regional cooperation and connectivity.