Bypassing the Karachi port in Pakistan, 1st consignment of Indian wheat reached Afghanistan through the Chabahar port in Iran. The shipment was flagged off by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj from Kandla Port in Gujarat on 29th October.
— Manpreet Vohra (@VohraManpreet) November 11, 2017
It is expected that by February 2018, seven other shipments will reach Afghanistan through Chabahar.
— Sediq Sediqqi (@SediqSediqqi) November 11, 2017
Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan welcomed the consignment of wheat to Afghanistan.
I welcome India’s first shipment of wheat via Chabahar port to #Afghanistan.
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) November 11, 2017
This is a significant step to boost trade ties between India, Afghanistan and Iran, while creating an alternate route for trade which is not dependent on Pakistan. The 7,00,000 tonne wheat shipment was part of the 1.1 million wheat pledged by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on grant basis to Afghanistan during his visit to Kabul.
The usage of Chabahar as a port would not only help India connect to Afghanistan, it would also mean that it can now access other resource-rich countries in central Asia. Chabahar is also meant to be a counter to the China-Pakistan economic corridor whose Gwadar sea port is already being used for China’s trade activities.
Even though this port was such a key feature in India foreign strategy, it almost went into a cold storage during the UPA period, after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had entered an agreement to develop it in 2003. Negotiations intensified after Nuclear Deal between P5 + 1 (The UN Security Council’s 5 permanent member and Germany) and Iran. It was finally brought on track by PM Modi during his 2016 Iran visit, where the two countries signed the Chabahar port agreement. Moments later, a trilateral transit agreement was signed between India, Iran and Afghanistan, which now seems to have started to bear fruits.
India’s plan to develop the Chabahar includes $500 million investment and a construction of a railway line between Chabahar and Zahedan which will connect the port to the mainstream Iranian railway system. Japan too has offered a hand in developing this whole project.
Considering China has invested heavily in Pakistan’s Gwadar Port as part of China-Pakistan Economic Economic Corridor (CPEC) India’s investment in Chabahar Port will be a crucial step to ensure India becomes a leading player in Central Asia.