India sends first Afghan wheat shipment via Iran port
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani announced the flagging off the vessel from the Indian port through a joint video conference, according to a statement from the ministry.
The shipment is part of an Indian government commitment to supply 1.1 million tons of wheat to Afghanistan on basis of grants.
Swaraj and Rabbani noted the fact that the first shipment through Chabahar was made possible only after a trilateral deal on establishment of international transport and transit corridor had been signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to Iran in May 2016.
Six more wheat shipments will be sent to Afghanistan over the next few months, the statement said. The ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to continue their cooperation for the benefit and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan and the region.
“The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalization of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan.
“It will open up new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan, and enhance trade and commerce between the three countries and the wider region,” Swaraj said in the statement.
India, Iran and Afghanistan are building the Chabahar Port in the strategic Iranian port city, apparently to counter the Gwadar port plan of Pakistan and China.
Gwadar port is in the mineral-rich southwestern Pakistan’s Balochistan province, which is billed as the gateway to the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
As part of the project, China is developing the Gwadar port where hundreds of Chinese and Pakistani officials and laborers continue to work on developmental projects.
Iran’s Chabahar currently connects India with Afghanistan by road and plans are on by Tehran to build a rail link with New Delhi’s support.
On June 9, The Economic Times said in its report that Tehran was considering a plan to link the strategically-located Chabahar port with various intra-Central Asia transport corridors.
The Iranian government also plans to link Chabahar with various Central Asian transport corridors to open up a second route for India’s outreach to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia republics. ■